LUXEMBOURG: The Netherlands on Friday led a behind-the-scenes campaign to stop a Franco-German plan to establish a eurozone budget ahead of a key EU summit to discuss the matter.

European sources said the Dutch government was making arguments on behalf of about a dozen countries that held wide-ranging doubts about the French-German plan.

In an email to Eurogroup chief Mario Centeno, Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra insisted that the lack of consensus on the budget be clearly communicated to leaders at next week’s summit.

The missive was written by the Dutch minister on behalf of Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ireland and Malta, the source said According to another source, the message involved a wide range of concerns, from “moral hazard risks” and questions of EU “neutrality” over national tax matters.

The message came after a meeting in Luxembourg where European Union finance ministers discussed a raft of proposals on how to improve the euro single currency in preparation for the summit.

Centeno, who is also Portuguese finance minister, is tasked with presenting concrete proposals to the leaders.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday agreed to their own version of reforms to be jointly tabled at the EU summit by the two nations at that traditionally drive bloc policy.

The Netherlands and other countries took deepest umbrage at Macron’s signature idea of a crisis-fighting budget for the 19-member single currency intended to rally Europeans against anti-EU populism.

“Everyone knows the positions of the member states of the eurozone on this subject,” said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2018

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