Portugal's Prime Minister, António Costa

Countdown to key Brussels summit: PM Costa approaches ‘frugals’ who balk at EU grants to save economies

With days to go before a key Brussels summit due to discuss vitally-important pandemic recovery funding, prime minister António Costa is touring Europe – the inference being that he’s ‘squaring positions’ with fellow leaders.

Today it’s a meeting with Mark Rutte – the Dutch prime minister – in Haia. Tomorrow it’ll be Budapest to speak with Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán.

But today’s meeting is potentially a ‘big one’, in that Rutte leads a country that has consistently criticised southern Member States for the way they handle their finances (click here).

Holland is a member of the so-called ‘frugals’ (including Austria, Finland, Denmark and Sweden) said to be against the €750 billion ‘bazooka’ plan put forwards by President Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel (click here).

Under the bazooka plan, Portugal stands to receive close to 35.8 billion just in grants. But that is if it’s approved – thus this is Mr Costa’s week: an uphill slog to get other Member States on side before the summit which opens on Friday.

This will be the first ‘face-to-face’ meeting of European leaders since the start of the pandemic.

Explain reports here, one of the ways of ‘persuading’ the frugals to accept the Macron-Merkel deal is to maintain controversial ‘rebates’ and ‘discounts’ that benefit the heaviest payers – Holland, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and also Germany.

But elsewhere doubts are rife. The Financial Times, for instance, says the frugals are in no mood for sweet-talking (even from Portugal’s ‘optimistic’ PM) and are adamant that they’ll reduce the overall size of not only the bazooka, but the next trillion euro pluriannual EU budget.

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