LONDON — George Soros has changed his mind about how the European Union should finance the costs of the coronavirus pandemic, warning that investors have now lost faith that the political bloc will survive.
The billionaire investor had previously said the EU should issue ” perpetual bonds ” — meaning the principal amount of the money borrowed would never be repaid, only the annual interest payments. It assumes the EU would last forever and therefore keep paying the interest back to the lender. Perpetual bonds are also designed to allow the region to fund projects at low costs.
However, a recent dispute between Poland and Hungary and the rest of the EU has put the bloc in a “very difficult situation,” according to Soros.
“Right now, it would be impossible for the EU to issue perpetual bonds, because the member states are too divided,” Soros said in an opinion piece published Monday in The Guardian .
“Investors will buy perpetual bonds only from an entity that they believe will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. … Sadly, it is not true of the EU today.”
This is because the Hungarian and Polish governments have vetoed the EU’s actual plan to deal with the economic crisis. They oppose linking the disbursements of EU bunds with the respect of the rule of law mechanism, which checks whether countries are complying with European values.
The standoff has no clear end in sight and it questions the future of the EU, where many important decisions need to be taken by consensus.
The impasse also risks the payments under the EU’s coronavirus stimulus package . The EU is projected to contract by more than 7% this year, according to data from the European Commission, and highly indebted nations are relying on European funds to prop up their economies.
In order to overcome the challenges at EU level, Soros suggested that individual countries should issue perpetual bonds on their own.
“They would be issued by member states whose continued existence would be readily accepted by long-term investors such as life-insurance companies,” he wrote.
“If one country issued perpetual bonds, it would have the additional advantage that other European countries would find it an example worth following,” Soros said.
This idea would allow nations to save money too, he argued, citing this as a particularly important issue for countries such as the Netherlands and Finland.
“Eventually, the EU could grow strong enough to also issue perpetual bonds in its own name. That is a goal worth striving for,” Soros said.
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