EU on the brink: Dutch ‘punching above their weight’ and risk MAJOR crisis

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Before the EU summit next week, Mr Rutte was visited by the likes of French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council chief Charles Michel. The EU will thrash out a deal on the economic recovery plan.

It is believed Italy’s Giuseppe Conte, Spain’s Pedro Sanchez and Portugal’s Antonio Costa will all visit the Dutchman over the next week ahead of the crucial summit.

Catherine De Vries, professor of political science at Bocconi University told the Financial Times: “The Dutch have always been difficult in EU budget negotiations, but now there is the feeling that they are really punching above their weight.

“The procession of EU leaders heading to Rutte shows Dutch voters that he is fighting for their national interest.”

Ms De Vries added Mr Rutte knows he has to compromise eventually but they just want to know where the money is going.

Since Brexit, Mr Rutte has grown in diplomatic stature and is the third longest-serving EU leader.

As the UK formally left the EU back in January, the Netherlands has become the bloc’s most vocal advocate for a smaller common budget.

Mr Rutte, alongside his conservative finance minister Wopke Hoekstra, successfully neutered plans for a eurozone budget last year.

Now, Mr Rutte has hit back over a proposal for the EU to hand out billions of euros in grants to help economies through the coronavirus pandemic.

A Dutch diplomat said: “We simply hate it.”

Mr Rutte, as well as the likes of Austria, Sweden and Denmark, are looking to amend Brussels’ proposal so only loads will be distributed to hard-hit economies.

He is also pushing for countries to carry out economic reforms to their labour, tax and pension systems.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis hit back over Mr Rutte’s proposal and said out was “politically unacceptable”.

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Spain’s Mr Sanchez also said it is not the “right moment” to mix recovery money with other policies.

An EU diplomat said: “The Dutch have never cared about having a pretty face in these talks.

“They come to Brussels to defend their national interest.

“They irritate many because their bluntness can be seen as arrogance.”

During Mr Rutte’s meeting with Mr Macron, the Frenchman was reportedly taken aback by the Dutch leader who questioned him about plans to continue in the market.

A senior diplomat said: “This is the logical consequence of what the recovery fund means.

“The penny is beginning to drop.”

Mr Rutte has a deep mistrust for the EU spendings between the northern and southern parts of the eurozone.

He was the prime minister during the Greek bailout between 2010 and 2015.

A national official claimed the Greek crisis almost destroyed The Netherlands.

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