EU budget talks in 3rd day without agreement

Brussels, Jul 19 (efe-epa).- European Union leaders continued discussions on the bloc’s budget and coronavirus recovery fund for a third day on Sunday in Brussels.

Negotiations on the proposed 750 billion euros stimulus package have stalled, mainly due to opposition from the so-called frugal four member states, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there is “good will” among the leaders but that an agreement on the European recovery fund may not be reached on Sunday.

She added that the talks are in a “decisive phase” after European Council President Charles Michel proposed a compromise on Saturday which would see 50 billion euros of funding changed from grants to loans.

The reduction in the total level of direct aid seeks to persuade the frugal four to approve the package as they have pushed for more loans and fewer grants.

These countries also want to be able to exercise greater control over how the money would be spent by recipient nations.

French President Emmanuel Macron said it is still possible to close an agreement on the budget and reconstruction plan but warned that it “will not be built on sacrificing Europe’s ambition”.

“Not out of principle, but because we are facing an unprecedented health, economic and social crisis, because our countries need it, and because the unity of Europe needs it,” he added.

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa said he was also hopeful of reaching a compromise but warned that the frugal four “have to make some effort”.

The talks ran into a third day after lengthy debates on Friday and Saturday ended without agreement.

Cash-strapped nations such as Spain and Italy, which were two of the worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, have called for an ambitious recovery program of direct investment with debt shouldered evenly across the EU.

Leaders from the 27 EU member states also have to agree on a seven-year 1.07 trillion euros budget.

The package remains up in the air after leaders failed to strike an agreement in the previous round of face-to-face negotiations held in February, before the coronavirus pandemic forced lockdowns across the continent. EFE-EPA


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