Dutch finance minister: Failed to show compassion in Europe remarks

AMSTERDAM, March 31 (Reuters) – The Netherlands’ Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra on Tuesday backtracked from recent remarks made about Dutch readiness to participate in European programmes to help countries stricken by coronavirus, saying they apparently showed “too little compassion.”

In an interview with broadcaster RTL, Hoekstra said he acknowledged that remarks he and Prime Minister Mark Rutte made in video conferences last week were poorly received.

Though the Netherlands and Germany both oppose debt-sharing at a European level, the Dutch have been criticized in particular by Spanish and Italian politicians for their reluctance to agree to tap the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) without conditions during crisis talks.

Hoekstra said the Netherlands was willing to discuss contributing “more than its fair share” of “new money” to some kind of European support programme. But he repeated the Netherlands opposed debt-sharing at the European level.

“About coronabonds or eurobonds, or whatever it is called, that’s just not prudent, it’s a solution for a problem that does not exist now,” he said. (Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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