There should be help - but no grants, no larger EU budget, no communalization of debt. This summarizes the plan that Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden presented. The self-proclaimed "frugal four" expressly understand their proposal as an alternative to the initiative by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

The two want to launch a € 500 billion aid fund. The money is to be raised by the Commission in the form of bonds on behalf of the EU on the capital market and will go to regions particularly affected by the pandemic in the form of grants. So if you get the money, you don't have to pay it back.

In principle, the "frugal four" do not resist European aid payments. In their paper they speak of solidarity. But the money should come from a one-time emergency fund in the form of cheap loans. It should also be earmarked. It can only "be used for the reconstruction and resilience of the health sector and the economy". In order to monitor the use of the funds, the four countries want to involve the European Court of Auditors more closely and assign a larger role to the European anti-corruption agency OLAF. To put it in a few words: Anyone who gets money has to pay it back and be careful when using the money.

Is the alternative proposal from the four countries appropriate? Is he up to date? Which answer you give depends on the interpretation of the corona crisis. Is it a crisis that questions everything, or can you get back on the agenda after overcoming it?

Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden seem more likely to believe that once the virus has been contained, you can start again where you left off, in everyday European life. Her mantra: no grants, no larger EU budget, no communitization of debts, at least points in this direction.

Step towards debt communitization

Merkel and Macron, on the other hand, think differently. Their proposal is not just about combating the consequences of the pandemic. It is also about further integration of the EU. Because legally, her 500 billion aid package is still on shaky legs. According to the treaties, EU institutions are not allowed to borrow on their own. Even if the legal cliffs can currently be circumvented, these measures make the reform of the EU treaties a new priority. Macron has challenged her vehemently and frequently since taking office. Merkel, in her restrained manner, also spoke about it from time to time. In the crisis, the two try to create facts. Because with the 500 billion bonds they are proposing, they are taking a step towards the communitization of debt.

So far, however, a lot has happened. Aid in the form of loans in the amount of around 500 billion is already available to the countries affected by the pandemic - they come from the pots of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the European Investment Bank and the EU Commission. The "economical four" also pointed this out in their proposal.

The EU Commission will present its plan for further aid this Wednesday. She will have to incorporate the suggestions from Merkel and Macron as well as those from the "economical four". Because only if all 27 members give their consent will there be a recovery fund. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced early on that there should be a mix of loans and grants in this fund. That would suit Merkel-Macron as well as the "economical four".