Germany and France explode at EU bureaucracy after painful delays to £663bn recovery fund

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said the Brussels bailout “is too slow” in disbursing much-needed funds to pandemic-stricken regions and industries. He claimed the health crisis has sparked the need to review Eurozone financial constraints to ensure the single currency bloc’s survival in the future. Mr Le Maire said: “I see there are blockages and that all this is too slow, that we need to accelerate and that if we want to emerge from the economic crisis in the best conditions, the European money must arrive as quickly as possible.”

The minister suggested that Brussels bureaucracy was delaying the roll-out of the recovery fund.

EU chiefs are due to raise cash on international financial markets in order to hand out grants and low-cost loans to each member state.

An agreement was only reached after one of the most acrimonious leadership summits of recent years, when differing opinions left EU unity on the verge of a breakdown.

Mr Le Maire told the FT: “We didn’t expend all that political capital only for the plan to be delayed for technocratic reasons.

“It’s too slow and it’s too complicated. We must accelerate.”

Before any money is distributed, EU capitals must publish details of how they plan to use the grants and loans by the end of April.

Once the plans are approved by the European Commission, cash will start being distributed in the second half of the year.

France is furious at the delay because it was planning to spend around £88 billion of the cash it was set to receive from the fund by the end of the year.

Mr Le Maire suggested any hold up could significantly impact his country’s economic recovery.

He said: “This is perhaps the most difficult moment of the crisis because there are new variants of the virus, vaccinations have not yet been fully rolled out and there is an immense exhaustion of our citizens, particularly in the economy – artisans, shopkeepers, small businesses.”

Wolfgang Schäuble, a former German finance minister, has issued similar warnings on the prospect of the EU recovery fund failing.

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Mr Schauble insisted the bloc had spent too much time wrangling over the size of the bailout package and not enough “thinking about what to spend it on”.

He added: “We should long ago have defined what areas the member states should be investing these funds in – artificial intelligence, digitisation, policies for tackling climate change.

“I hope we can do this more quickly.”

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