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Germany urges quick implementation of EU recovery funds as infections rise

BERLIN (Reuters) - Rising coronavirus infections across Europe are underlining the need to implement the agreed 750 billion euros of EU recovery funds quickly, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday ahead of talks with fellow finance ministers of the bloc.

FILE PHOTO: German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz wearing a protective mask gestures during a session of the German lower house of parliament Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, September 29, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

EU leaders in July clinched an historic deal on a massive debt-financed stimulus plan for their coronavirus-throttled economies, but they left open details on how quickly the funds should flow and how the bloc would repay the borrowed money.

“The new normal in times of the coronavirus pandemic requires that we remain vigilant and adapt our daily routine to the development of the pandemic,” Scholz said ahead of a virtual meeting with his counterparts from other EU member states.

“The sharp rise in infections also underlines the need to implement Europe’s ambitious recovery programme timely and to set the right course for Europe’s future,” added Scholz, whose country currently holds the presidency of the 27-member bloc.

Scholz said the recovery money should help Europe emerge from the crisis stronger, more innovative, more climate friendly, more digital and more united.

“We have made impressive progress on the Recovery and Resilience Facility in very short time. I am confident that we can take the next important step,” Scholz said.

He said his goal for the meeting was to come to a political agreement on the regulation text.

Germany wants to ensure that the recovery money is available in 2021.

“It is key for the recovery that member states can use the funds when the crisis is still ongoing,” Scholz said.

The finance ministers will also discuss the European Commission's latest proposals for the regulation of crypto-assets and their underlying blockchain technology, used in private sector projects such as Facebook's FB.O Libra.

“A sovereign Europe needs both: a strong and competitive digital finance sector and a sound and forward-looking regulatory framework based on European values,” Scholz said.

So Europe should seize the opportunities of digital finance, but at the same time it must ensure consumer protection, financial stability and monetary sovereignty, Scholz said.

On the agenda of the meeting is also the Commission’s proposal for expanding the bloc’s capital market.

“Europe’s capital markets are still too fragmented and with Brexit an important market is outside the EU,” Scholz said, adding that Europe needed strong capital markets to help financing businesses and to support the economic recovery.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; editing by Thomas Seythal and Ed Osmond