Italian PM Conte believes EU summit was positive

Following the EU summit on Friday, Italian PM Giuseppe Conte said that the leaders made “a step forward", ANSA reported. "The right climate, one of convergence, is developing," he commented after the video conference, focused on the European Commission's proposed coronavirus Recovery Fund.

"We will have a Recovery Fund project that is connected to the multi-year financial framework. Europe will win because it will have packaged a coherent, coordinated response that is up to (the challenge of) this recession".

The European Commission has proposed creating a € 750bn Recovery Fund, with much of the money being allocated via non-refundable grants. According to the Commission's plan, Italy would be the biggest beneficiary of the Recovery Fund as it is the EU country that has been hit hardest by COVID-19.

"The Commission's proposal is fair and well-balanced," Conte said. And he noted that the time frames are also important. “We absolutely must wrap things up by the end of July.  And we must support the Commission's efforts to make some of the resources available this year". The Italian premier said it was now up to the EU leaders to do their bit after the Commission and the European Central Bank did theirs.

"I don't like the 'compromise' formula. I prefer work on an "ambitious political decision", Conte said. He stressed that his government does not want to go back to business as usual when the COVID emergency is over but wants Italy to emerge from it reshaped and stronger. "On the internal front, Italy has started national consultations with all the political, productive and social forces to draft a plan of investments and reforms that will make it possible, not to restore the pre-Covid situation, but to improve its level of productivity and economic growth".

Dutch Premier Mark Rutte welcomed Conte's comments, according to sources, saying he "looked favourably on the spirit that is inspiring the government on reforms". German Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, poured cold water on Conte's hopes that the Recovery Fund cash could start flowing by the end of the year. "I don't think the funds can be paid already this year," she said. European Council President Charles Michel was positive after Friday's talks and said another summit would be held in July, when leaders will get together physically. "There is an emerging consensus on the Recovery Fund and the (EU) budget," Michel said. "But at the same time we must not underestimate the different visions on various points. It is necessary to continue the discussion".   

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