Dutch still demand that EU recovery fund be tied to reforms -PM Rutte

Netherlands' Prime Minister Mark Rutte smiles as he arrives for the first face-to-face EU summit since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium July 17, 2020. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday said he was “not optimistic” that agreement would be reached between the EU’s 27 member states over a coronavirus recovery fund.

“I’m not optimistic, but you never know,” he told Dutch broadcaster NOS as he arrived for a special summit of the bloc’s leaders to negotiate a deal on their 2021-27 budget and a new coronavirus recovery fund worth 750 billion euros. [nL5N2EO1NT]

The Netherlands wants countries receiving EU support from the fund to agree to reforms in their labour markets and pension systems among other areas.

It is leading a group of several smaller EU nations that are opposed to providing grants or assistance without strict conditions.

Reporting by Anthony Deutsch and Toby Sterling; Editing by Hugh Lawson