Charlemagne – A Dutch dilemma | Europe

Charlemagne – A Dutch dilemma | Europe

Jul 11th 2020MARK RUTTE makes an unconvincing villain. In person, the Dutch prime minister resembles an over-caffeinated vicar, mixing manic good-ch

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MARK RUTTE makes an unconvincing villain. In person, the Dutch prime minister resembles an over-caffeinated vicar, mixing manic good-cheer with sermons on the importance of living within one’s means. The 53-year-old lives alone in a modest apartment, cycles to his poky office in The Hague and takes time off from running the country to teach social studies at a local school. Such do-goodery has not stopped Mr Rutte being cast as the bad guy in Brussels as the EU argues over a €750bn ($845bn) fund aimed at pepping up the bloc’s lockdown-hit economies.

The Dutch government is leading opposition to the plan, which involves a mix of grants worth €500bn and loans of €250bn handed to individual countries and paid for by the EU issuing debt collectively at scale for the first time. The scheme, or at least the outline of it, is supported by France, Germany and every other big country. Mr Rutte is the unofficial head of a band of sceptics and refuseniks, consisting of Sweden, Denmark and Austria as well as the Netherlands, known as the “frugal four”. At a summit next week—the first in person since the start of the covid-19 crisis—these two sides will square off. Unanimity is required for the plan to go ahead.

A view exists among Dutch voters and politicians that countries in southern Europe are in trouble because they spent too much or failed to reform their…



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