Merkel’s spokesman: Joint EU debt ‘clearly limited’

The European Union’s recovery package to counter the economic effects of the pandemic is a limited measure, in the view of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, her official spokesman said in Berlin on Monday.

Steffen Seibert said the EU’s jointly-agreed response was an exceptional measure to address the exceptional situation that the EU found itself in.

The powers allowed the European Commission to borrow on capital markets on behalf of the bloc as a whole were “clearly limited” in terms of both duration and scope, Seibert said, and are solely aimed at dealing with the current crisis.

These views appeared to contrast sharply with those of Finance Minister Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats, a partner in Merkel’s coalition led by the Christian Democrats (CDU).

“The recovery fund is genuine progress for Germany and Europe that cannot be reversed,” Scholz, a challenger for the chancellorship in next year’s elections, told the Sunday editions of the Funke media group.

The EU is incurring debt jointly as a bloc for the first time, he said, and is committed to begin repaying it soon. “These are all far-reaching changes, perhaps the largest changes since the euro was introduced,” Scholz said.

His comments were immediately opposed by CDU members.

The heads of the bloc’s 27 member states agreed a month ago on a crisis programme of 750 billion euros (890 billion dollars), with 390 billion euros distributed as direct grants and 360 billion euros as loans that are to be repaid.

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