Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks during his press conference with new Minister of Health Hugo De Jonge, who succeeds Bruno Bruins since his resignation during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at The Hague, The Netherlands, March 19. 2020. REUTERS / Eva Plevier

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Wednesday he would rather give a “gift” to European countries struggling financially over the coronavirus outbreak rather than issuing joint bonds or exploiting the European Union rescue fund.

During a debate in the Dutch parliament, Rutte said he hoped to restore diplomatic relations with Italy and Spain after being criticized for a perceived lack of empathy during conversations about the EU crisis. last week.

Rutte reiterated that the Netherlands opposed the idea of ​​“coronabonds” as a form of debt sharing among EU members in response to the crisis. He said he would also prefer to set up a new support fund rather than having countries use the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

“If you do (support) the ESM, then it’s a loan and a loan has to be paid back,” he said. “If you’re doing it as a giveaway, then it’s, ‘Listen, you’ve been hit hard, but with a number of richer countries we’re prepared to bear the direct costs of the coronavirus crisis.’ “

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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