The European Commission would like to spend three-quarters of a trillion euros to combat the crisis set off by COVID-19. The Commission would like two thirds of the money to be disbursed as grants to severely affected countries. Not everyone approves, with the loudest criticism coming from the so-called “frugal four,” made up of Austria, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, 33, has taken on a leading role among the critics
DER SPIEGEL:Chancellor, you have been widely criticized for your rejection of the coronavirus-crisis support package.
Kurz: At the end of the day, there will hopefully be a compromise that is acceptable to all. And we are, by the way, merely representing what was also the German position only a few weeks ago.
DER SPIEGEL:Angela Merkel said years ago that there would be no euro bonds for as long as she lived. You believe she made an about-face when she presented her plan with the French president?
Kurz:Let me put it this way – for as long as I am politically accountable, I will not agree to euro bonds.
DER SPIEGEL:What is your position on the 750-billion-euro program European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented on Wednesday?
Kurz:The most important point for us is that no debt union is instituted through the back door. We believe that is the completely wrong path.
DER SPIEGEL:Do you feel ignored by Merkel and Macron?
Kurz:It is OK for large countries like Germany and France to join forces and make proposals. But the EU consists of more than just two member states. I think it’s important that the Commission president has led this process with European Council President Charles Michel, and that both are trying to build bridges and fight honestly for Europe.
DER SPIEGEL:Will there now be intra-EU haggling, like in a bazaar?
Kurz:I’m surprised how little public discussion there has been about this before now. In EU states, extensive domestic political debates are often held about the smallest sums of money. But now we are talking about billions in transfers for small countries like Austria. For Germany, you can add another zero. What’s also relevant, by the way, is: What happens with the money? If it is invested in the environment, digitization or health, that’s good. And if it allows the initiation of necessary reforms – all the better.