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António Costa criticizes politician restraint: ‘European Union will do what it has to do, or it will end’

5costa criticismThe Prime Minister warned this Friday that the European Union is in danger of self-sabotaging if it does not correctly face the economic and social effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, stressing that “the priority of all priorities is to save lives”.

“The European Union will either do what it has to do or the European Union will end. I think that only people who do not have the least sensitivity or the least understanding of this dramatic reality that we are currently facing – in the face of situations like that of Italy or Spain, and in the Netherlands too – is it possible to say that we need to know why Italy and Spain have no budgetary conditions to face these situations “, stressed António Costa.

Costa thus reiterated the criticisms he had already made on Thursday, at the end of a European Council in which the the Dutch Minister of Finance pushed for the European Commission to more closely investigate why Italy and Spain are lacking in budgetary margins to deal with the effects of the virus.

“The last thing any responsible politician can do in this scenario is not to understand that the priority of the priorities is to save lives and fight this virus, it is to create conditions so that as soon as possible companies can work, jobs can be safe again, families can be able to return to income. Only then are public finances sustainable “, he stressed.

The prime-minister, who was speaking to journalists on the side-lines of a visit to the CEiiA – Centre for Excellence and Innovation in the Automotive Industry in Matosinhos, in the district of Porto, reaffirmed that he considered “certain reasonings to be disgusting”, referring to the statements made by Dutch Finance minister Wopke Hoekstra’s in a videoconference with counterparts from the 27 countries of the European Union (EU).

The Prime Minister defended that “there is no EU country that is prepared to face situations with this dimension at the outset”, asserting: “One must not have the notion of what it is like to live in an internal market like the one in which we live for someone to be able have the illusion that you can solve the pandemic problem in the Netherlands, if the pandemic continues to spread in Italy or Spain or anywhere else. We live in an open border market “, he recalled.

Costa further criticized the minister, saying that “there are no healthy public finances in dead economies, with unemployed people and collapses in the health system”, and pointed out that “to be a Minister of Finance of a country you have to understand the priorities very well “.

“And anyone who wants to be in an EU 27 has to realize that being in a union is not living in isolation, per se, it is sharing the difficulties and advantages with others. A Minister of Finance who benefits most from the existence of the Eurozone should be one of the first to realize that in the spirit of unity we are here to support each other “.

Visibly displeased with the topic, António Costa, accompanied by his Minister of Economy, as well as the Minister of Higher Education, recalled that Portugal “even when it was in a serious economic crisis” was, he said, “one of the first to welcome migrants and refugees” because it had  partners in Europe who were experiencing a serious migratory crisis “.

“And this is, modesty aside, the good way to act in the EU”, he stressed. For Costa, “the way to be in the EU is not to repeat the behaviour of 2008 and 2009” because, he stressed, in addition to “saving the economy and jobs from current economic consequences”, the main focus must be “saving human lives”.