JEF Denmark & JEF Netherlands against the Frugal Four

17/07/2020 Joint statement by Isabelle Büttner, Jacob Durcan & Sofie Hølmkjær Jacobsen

Today, EU leaders will meet in Brussels to discuss the recovery plan to respond to the corona crisis and a new long-term EU budget. The loans proposed by the so-called Frugal Four would lead to further debts from countries already affected, which could have worse effects than the 2007/2008 economic crisis. Should austerity be forced within the European economic zone, it would affect all countries including the Frugal Four. This approach is neither in the self-interests of any EU Member State nor is it in the interests of the European Union as a whole. The nations of Europe are now a single entity when it comes to the world economy and the weakening of one is to the detriment of all. In this time of severe economic dislocation, Europe needs a decisive, joined-up approach where all countries pull in the same direction, towards recovery and future strength. We, therefore, call the Frugal Four to act for European solidarity, and to support a significant growth in the budget of the European Union.

Statement of JEF Netherlands

JEF-NL strongly disagrees with the position of the Dutch Government as part of the Frugal Four.

The Commission’s plan to combine loans and grants can be of interest to all parts of Europe, as the focus lies on European solidarity through grants. In the negotiations, Mark Rutte could have used his political power to contribute to a common solution for an EU-wide recovery plan, instead of turning his back on EU solidarity by favouring the pact of the Frugal Four with a view on the upcoming national elections in 2021.

From a diplomatic perspective, Mark Rutte is playing a leading and irresponsible role in fanning the flames of Euroscepticism among Dutch citizens. This institutional power to form the opinion of its citizens is reflected in a recent survey conducted by I&O Research for the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant as it found that 61% of Dutch voters did not support the EU recovery plan. Resistance to the Commissions’s plan was highest among voters on the far right and only 4% of voters said they were satisfied with the proposal.* Comparing these numbers with the reality of the Dutch economy thriving on the success of the EU, it is imperative that our Government act in the European interest, communicate with us honestly and transparently, and stand up for solidarity with one another within the EU.

As part of the Frugal Four, the Netherlands is signalling that it is not willing to help its friends and neighbours when they need it most. It is not just important to help our biggest trade partners rebound for our own economic self-interest, but it is simply the right thing to do, to show solidarity with the EU Member States that are most affected by the coronavirus crisis.

Statement of JEF Denmark

JEF Denmark does not support the position and action of the Danish Government towards the EU during the corona crisis. With a new Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, known for being quite the opposite of pro-European, it is sadly no surprise that she continues a negative line, supported by a broad coalition in the Danish Parliament, and joins the Frugal Four. However, when an unprecedented global crisis hits and when European solidarity is literally more serious than ever, it is hard to understand why the scepticism of a minority of Danes towards the European project still sets the agenda. Right now is the moment when it is crucial that we as pro-European Danes not give in – but instead, wave the European flag in solidarity – a flag that it is high time that the Danish Parliament also begins to fly.

This decision has profound consequences for Denmark’s position and influence within the EU. The current approach to the budget negotiations is old fashioned, and counterintuitive when it comes to Denmark’s and Europe’s long-term interests. Shared values, common destiny, common climate solutions, just to mention a few. Thus, by sabotaging the EU’s efforts when it comes to reviving the common market economies, the Danish Government is undermining our long-term interests, and distancing itself from the average Danish household, whose jobs depend on European economic cooperation and trade as well as their need for encouragement from Danish politicians to feel more European.

There is a need for a much bigger budget than that recommended by the Frugal Four. Simply said, we are a small country and we can’t handle problems alone. This is particularly current given the climate crisis and increasing challenges around defence. The immediate challenge is the need to resuscitate the economy. Here, it is crucial that we remember that the Frugal Four are countries who live on exports. Thus, it is in our self-interest to help our friends, and our customers, elsewhere in Europe.” Frederik Bast Phillip, President of JEF Denmark

As representatives of the pro-European youth in the Netherlands and Denmark, we call on the Frugal Four to come forward and recognise that a united and strong European Union is the only way to realise our common interests as European citizens.

The solutions to the corona crisis require a shift towards a democratic and united Europe, so that action can take effect. It is now more crucial and evident than ever, that even we sceptical Member States must come forward in solidarity. In only this way, we can build the European Union that we want and need. We, the youth, say it is time to put solidarity above undue scepticism!

JEF Denmark (Europæisk Ungdom) is a cross-policy youth organization working to increase understanding and interest in the European Union among young people in Denmark. Our activities range from courses and debate events to study trips, and activity takes place on national level as well as in our 7 local sections. Moreover, our organization is visible and active in the Danish media, as a voice of the pro-European youth.

JEF Netherlands (Jonge Europese Federalisten Nederland) wants to help young people in the Netherlands find their place in the European Union. By organising street actions, guided tours, debates and seminars, we try to make sure that young people are aware the issues in Europe today and the future. Our local sections in Amsterdam, Den Haag, Enschede, Maastricht and Nijmegen make sure that there are JEF-activities in your own city.

The Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe is a non-partisan youth NGO with 13.000 members active in more than 30 countries. The organisation strives towards a federal Europe based on the principles of democracy and subsidiarity as well as respect for human rights. JEF promotes true European Citizenship and works towards more active participation of young people in democratic life. While the umbrella organisation JEF Europe was founded in 1972, its sections have been operating continuously since the end of the Second World War, making it the oldest pro-European and only federalist youth organisation. 

Background on the Frugal Four

The group of the self-proclaimed Frugal Four, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, has presented a counter-proposal to the joint proposal by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. The four countries advocate a one-off emergency fund to strengthen the EU economy in the wake of the corona crisis. However, they want to limit the emergency aid to two years and support the implementation of stricter conditions for the allocation of funds. The four Member States reject the concept of mutual indebtedness, which would be jointly covered by the EU, and instead support countries that are granted loans to repay. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the leader of the Frugal Four, stated that those countries more in favour of austerity measures would prefer a temporary fund to be completed by the end of 2022 for the economies most affected by the coronavirus pandemic*. The Frugal Four defended their standpoint in the Council’s video conference on 19 June which showed that Member States agree that a post-pandemic recovery plan is needed –  the trouble lies in the strong disagreement on the amount of money to be spent and about the implementation of stricter conditions for the allocation of funds.

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