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EU leaders struck a deal on a huge coronavirus recovery package earlier this year. The €750billion (£677billion) coronavirus fund will be used as loans and grants to the countries hit hardest by the virus, such as Italy and Spain. The remaining money represents the EU budget for the next seven years.
Perhaps the most important part of the agreement is the fact that the deal gives Brussels the “unprecedented power” to borrow hundreds of billions in the financial markets and hand it out as budgetary support to member states.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz claimed the move finally brings Brussels one step closer to a fiscal union.
In October, Mr Scholz told an interparliamentary conference on stability, economic coordination and governance in Brussels: “We are moving towards fiscal union, a major step forward in the financial capacity and sovereignty of the EU.”
He added: “Markets have confidence in European policies and in the development of European economies.
“We should carry on with this course.”
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It is no secret that the EU has a desire to become a fully-fledged fiscal union.
It has also been trying to make all EU member states adopt the single currency.
In 2017, a European Commission memo, first obtained by German publication Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung, claimed all EU member states were going to be forced to start using the euro within eight years.
Pierre Moscovici, the then-Commissioner for Economic Affairs said at the time: “We will try to make a framework that is attractive enough, that is like, as they say in the movies, an offer you cannot refuse.”
However, the plan never came to fruition.
Since 1999, all new EU members are obliged to commit in principle to joining the euro once they meet certain criteria.
However, there is also no mechanism that actually forces a new EU member to adopt it.
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There are currently eight countries which are in the EU but do not use the euro: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden.
Some countries, such as Poland, are theoretically in the process of joining the euro – but there is no fixed date about if and when this will be achieved.
The recent Polish threat to veto the EU’s budget has actually ignited a discussion about the country’s future in the bloc.
Earlier this month, the Polish government joined Hungary in blocking the EU’s budget and pandemic recovery fund because it includes a mechanism linking the bloc’s money with the rule of law.
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That has prompted the opposition to warn that Poland is on track to quit the EU — a so-called Polexit.
Their worry is that government rhetoric painting the EU as an alien and unfriendly force will end up tainting the Union and eventually create momentum to leave — as happened with the UK,
There’s an increasingly anti-Brussels tone from ministers and senior politicians belonging to the right-wing ruling coalition led by the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party as well as their media allies.
Last week, the right-wing Do Rzeczy weekly — which often serves as a government mouthpiece — published a cover saying: “We have to tell the Union: Enough. Polexit — we have the right to talk about it.”
Despite the rhetoric, the government insists it has no intention of leaving the EU, but simply wants it to be true to its original purpose — a loose grouping of nation states and not a liberal federalist project.
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