EU Leaders Struggle To Reach Agreement On Financial Recovery Package Amid Pandemic

Cornelia Mascio
Luglio 20, 2020

"Are the 27 EU leaders capable of building European unity and trust or, because of a deep rift, will we present ourselves as a weak Europe, undermined by distrust", he asked the leaders at the end of another day of divisive negotiations.

European Union leaders stood at an impasse on Monday after three days of haggling over a plan to revive economies throttled by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the chairman of the marathon summit urged them to make one last push to agree to an unprecedented 1.8 trillion euro (2.06 trillion USA dollars) budget for a coronavirus recovery fund.

As the leaders haggled into the evening over a plan created to help haul Europe out of its deepest recession since World War Two, diplomats said it was not clear if they would abandon the summit and try again next month, or plough on through the night.

The bitter negotiations have underscored the deep divides within the 27-nation bloc, with the traditional Franco-German alliance struggling to get its way.

"There is a lot of goodwill, but there are also a lot of different positions", she said.

The pandemic, which has spawned health and economic mayhem worldwide, also resulted in the G20 considering extending debt relief for coronavirus-hit poor countries in the second half of this year.

The 750 billion euros proposed for the recovery fund would be raised on behalf of them all on capital markets by the EU's executive European Commission, which would be a historic step towards greater integration, and then funnelled mostly to hard-hit Mediterranean rim countries.

The Netherlands is among those nations pushing for additional "strings" to be attached to COVID recovery grants, such as economic reforms, with the country's prime minister admitting that the discussion of the budget and the recovery fund is unlikely to be swift and painless. "Everyone must take responsibility".

On Saturday, Michel proposed keeping the total recovery budget at 750 million euros but shifting the balance from grants - down from 500 million in an earlier version to 450 million - to loans, which rise from 250 million to 300 million, according to a document seen by AFP.

"At this stage it's not about weighing up one proposal or another but working out whether it's realistically possible to reach a deal", the Spanish source said.

French president Emmanuel Macron rallied behind her.

"They ran off in a bad mood", Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.

With the impasse still unbroken on Sunday evening, President of the European Council Charles Michel reminded the leaders that more than 600,000 people had died of the virus worldwide, and he hoped that the "headline tomorrow is that the EU has accomplished mission impossible".

Merkel and Macron walked out of heated talks before dawn Sunday with the frugals, bemoaning their lack of commitment to a common cause.

Mr Rutte and his allies are trying to water down the handouts that the highly indebted South sees as critical for shoring up its finances.

Rutte has always been known as a European bridge builder, but this weekend his tough negotiating stance was being blamed for holding up a deal.

While Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says he has a good personal relationship with Rutte, he said the "clash is very hard" and that Rutte's demand for a veto "is an unwarranted request".

Rutte and his allies are pushing for labour market and pension reforms to be linked to European Union handouts and a "brake" enabling European Union nations to monitor and, if necessary, halt projects that are funded by the recovery fund.

"We're not here to be invited to each other's birthdays for the rest of our lives", he said.

Some northern nations like the Netherlands and Sweden have balked at the package, arguing it should take the forms of loans not grants.

Another member of the frugals, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, said he still believed a deal was possible, but there is a "long way to go", the Austria Press Agency cited Kurz as saying.

Altre relazioniGrafFiotech

Discuti questo articolo

Segui i nostri GIORNALE