This time, the European Union looked closely at its shadow and took a great leap to the other side.
Having learned the painful lesson of responding to economic depressions with austerity, hesitation and measures of political distancing, this time the partners opted for a determined and inclusive stimulus. The issuance of debt by common institutions is an integrating step that will go down in history as the largest in recent decades, alongside the institution of the common euro currency and free movement in the Schengen area. What impact will this big move have on the club’s eurosceptics?
Euroscepticism is a faith with many churches. For some of them, this week’s deal is a tremendous jug of political cold water; for others, gasoline for the bonfire. Let’s see.
Italy and Spain. The pact on the European Reconstruction Fund foresees that Rome will receive 209,000 million euros – of which 81,000 subsidies-; Madrid, about 140,000 –of which 72,000 subsidies-. In total, the two countries will receive half of the total fund. The rain of money is of such magnitude – and the part of subsidies so large – that the political position of the Eurosceptics of both countries is substantially unsustainable. Matteo Salvini, leader of the League, nevertheless chose to maintain an acid position, calling the agreement a “great trap” or “scam as a house”. In Spain, Vox leaders tried to focus on the alleged ineffective negotiating power of the Sánchez government and the containment of funds for agricultural policy in the budget for the next seven years that was approved together with the reconstruction fund. In both cases, it is very reasonable to think that the Eurosceptic flag will be much more difficult to raise in the coming years.
Germany and Holland. Very different is the situation of AfD in Germany or the party of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. Although the final agreement contains improvements from the point of view of the Eurosceptics of those countries – reduction of the amount of subsidies from the 500,000 million of the initial proposal to 390,000; consolidation of checks that lower the exposure as net taxpayers of both countries – it is evident that the great step of solidarity that the fund implies is ammunition for criticism. Wilders argued that Prime Minister Rutte has “knelt” in front of the partners by accepting “€ 390 billion in gifts for Southern Europe.” He called the matter “crazy”, claiming that billions that should have been spent “will be thrown away” in the Netherlands. Alice Weidel, leader of the AfD in the Bundestag, also criticized the “gifts” and accused Chancellor Merkel of having given up defending German interests. Both sides ignore the enormous benefit that their countries extract from the common market and the wide sleeve of Brussels in authorizing large State aid. Depending on the development of the coming years, in any case, it is clear that these games have an important asset to play.
This. In the very peculiar church of Eastern Euroscepticism, this week’s deal has very peculiar characteristics. The rulers of Poland and Hungary show the triumph of having avoided linking funds with respect for democratic values and the rule of law. Poland also maintains considerable aid, despite being one of the economies least hit by the pandemic (just as it was in the crisis that started in 2008). At the same time, the generous attitude of the EU will be an asset in the coming years for all those who, in those countries, defend the inclusive adventure.
France. In the second power of the European club, Marine Le Pen has taken advantage of the agreement to charge against the position of President Macron and a position that, according to his point of view, did not protect French interests, in the amounts received and especially on the issue of agricultural policy, the central pillar of Gallic interests in the EU. He called the pact “the worst for France in the history of the EU” and accused the president of sacrificing national interests in the name of his ego. The performance of the French economy will determine how strong these arguments will be in the future.