After several delays and amid warnings of a catastrophic failure to find a compromise on EU rescue fund, the bloc’s finance ministers agreed a deal by video conference on Thursday that will set up a 500 billion euros rescue fund.

The Netherlands eventually dropped a demand that the funds should be closely supervised centrally during the implementation process, while Italy and Spain accepted a delay in an agreement on ‘corona bonds.

The announcement that a deal had been reached eases a huge amount of political pressure on the Union, whose very existence was being called into question by the southern European countries, Italy in particular.

Italy’s finance minister, Roberto Gualtieri, said: “We have put on the table of the European Council a recovery fund enabling common debt issuance. Off the table is any conditionality on the use of European stability mechanism financing. Now it’s up to the leaders to take the right decisions.”

Wopke Hoekstra, his Duth counterpart, called it a “sensible” deal. Bailout funds will still need to be used in response to the immediate crisis, the minister said.

After the bloc’s failure to reach agreement earlier in the week, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned that the EU would sound its own death knell if it failed to act. In Europe, as elsewhere the economic impact of the coronavirus shutdown has been near catastrophic.

PHOTO: Giuseppe Conte