(Source: CD/Giancarlo La Vella, Vatican News)
The President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, has expressed his appreciation for the approval of a European Union recovery fund that will enable an economic reconstruction after the crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. “Europe has embarked on the path of solidarity”, celebrated the cardinal.
The historic agreement on the recovery fund reached July 21 by European leaders at the end of marathon negotiations over four days and nights represents an important turning point not only because of the concrete effects it will have in overcoming the crisis caused by the pandemic, but also because it gives the future of the European Union a new way of managing relations between member countries.
The recovery fund will be endowed with 750 billion euros: 390 billion in the form of grants and 360 billion euros in the form of loans. The beneficiary states will have to start repaying the sums they receive at the end of the next seven-year EU budget, i.e. by 2027.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he was satisfied with the “higher discounts” the Netherlands obtained on its annual EU contribution and described the plan as approved as “a good package for the Netherlands and Europe”. Rutte was the leader of the so-called frugal nations that wanted more loans than subsidies in the recovery plan.
“With 209 billion we have the opportunity to get Italy back on track and change the face of the country. Now we have to run and use these funds for investments and structural reforms”, were the words of the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, celebrating the 28% of the recovery money that his country will receive.
The Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, was also satisfied: “Today we are laying the foundations for a response to the Covid-19 crisis without forgetting tomorrow”, he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also welcomed the agreement, as did French President Emmanuel Macron, who said the agreement made Tuesday “an historic day” for Europe.
Cardinal Hollerich: “I cannot imagine a Europe that is not in solidarity”
In an interview with Vatican News, Cardinal Hollerich also commented positively on the agreement on the EU recovery fund, which he said is a significant opening of Europe to a logic of solidarity, which will undoubtedly be reflected beyond continental borders.
Other positive reactions from European Catholic Church figures included that of COMECE Secretary General, Fr. Manuel Barrios Prieto, who celebrated that “with this Council agreement, the future for all is Europe, and Italy and Spain have a future”.
COMECE Vice President Bishop Mariano Crociata added that “what was achieved in Brussels is definitely a political success: European countries have understood the importance of sticking together, that over and above differing initial stances; we need to find a common ground”.
“However, we still need to grow in this direction, in terms of an overall vision, a common project”, Crociata watned.
Said Cardinal Hollerich: “We may say that Europe has chosen solidarity, although it took a lot of effort to achieve it. I am glad that the 27 got there. The European Union must express – it is in its nature – solidarity. This is part of the DNA of the European Union.
“I believe that Europe has problems today: Europe is no longer the economic centre of the world, with the United States. The world has changed and I believe that the COVID crisis has accelerated this change.
“We will continue to suffer the consequences of this pandemic, but I hope, especially for young people, that this [agreement] will allow them to live their lives in peace and always aware that we must help others”.
Vatican News: Is the role of the Church, of the Churches, important at this time?
Cardinal Hollerich: Yes, because we must always be on the side of the poorest. We must express our solidarity; we must also give resources to the people who need them.
In this sense, I am very happy that there will be help for the countries most affected by the pandemic, that is, Italy, Spain and France. I feel deeply European and I cannot imagine a Europe that is not in solidarity.
We are all in the same situation. And I believe that helping others will also be a blessing for countries’ own economies.
Will a Europe in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic continue to be welcoming to migrants seeking a better life?
This is also a very important issue for me, because it is too easy to give something superfluous.
We Christians are not called to anything else: we are called to share what is necessary to help other people.
Yesterday at home I received an Iraqi family. In this time of pandemic they made masks for many other people. It is a very beautiful idea and you can see that Europe also receives a lot if it is open to giving something.