June 17, 2020 / 4:52 PM / 24 days ago

France sees possible EU recovery fund deal in July: official

PARIS (Reuters) - France hopes to reach an agreement with the 26 other members of the European Union on a proposed 750 billion euro recovery fund in July, a presidential adviser said on Wednesday ahead of a video conference between EU leaders on Friday.

The EU has proposed a 750 billion euro aid package to help countries deal with the fallout from the coronavirus crisis, echoing a Franco-German deal presented earlier, but some frugal northern European nations led by Austria and the Netherlands have been deeply sceptical.

“It’s in no one’s interest to see the situation get bogged down,” the adviser said, adding that ‘giant steps’ had been made in recent weeks, including securing the backing of all EU countries for a joint debt mechanism to fund the package.

“Everyone agrees we need a significant and urgent recovery plan and a debt mechanism, which is no small feat,” the adviser said.

However, he said differences remained over whether to distribute funds in the form of grants to the hardest-hit countries like Italy or via loans, as supported by the so-called “Frugal Four” group of countries.

“I think there are nuances between the so-called Frugals group,” he said, seeing “room for manoeuvre” in negotiations.

“We would all have a price to pay if Europe got stuck into a rut again,” he added, pointing to the fact the recovery fund was already largely priced in by financial markets and supported by public opinion across Europe.

Waiting to agree on the budget and recovery fund until September would not be ideal, the official said, because of other crises piling on, including Brexit talks and a new flare up of the migrant crisis.

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Benoit Van Overstraeten, Kirsten Donovan

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