EU leaders hope to unlock pandemic recovery funds at Brussels summit

Brussels, Dec 10 (efe-epa).- The heads of state and government of the European Union began a two-day summit in Brussels on Thursday where they hope to unlock an EU post-pandemic recovery package that has been vetoed by Hungary and Poland.

On the summit’s first day, the leaders will also discuss relations with Turkey, with the possibility of imposing sanctions over tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, as well as their targets for reducing polluting emissions by 2030. They will be given updates on the final stretch of Brexit negotiations by the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, is confident that it will be possible to reach an agreement to unblock the recovery package, following the compromise negotiated between Germany, the current president of the Council, Hungary and Poland, but admitted that it is not done yet.

“We are close but not yet over the finish line, there is still some work to be done in the next few hours to reach that finish line and I am confident. I think it is possible to reach (an agreement) on the reconstruction fund and the next budget,” he said.

Budapest and Warsaw have so far vetoed the recovery package, which will mobilize 1.8 billion euros, over the Rule of Law mechanism, which would allow for the distribution of funds to be suspended in certain corruption cases, as well as where judicial independence is seen to be threatened.

Hungary and Poland, which are ruled by conservative governments that have curbed women’s rights and those of the LBTQ community, view the mechanism as a potential intrusion of their sovereignty.

The concessions to the mechanism they obtained in the talks with Germany after the EU threatened to exclude them from the recovery package entirely must still be approved by the Council.

The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, said on his arrival at the summit that member states are “one iota away” from reaching an agreement that he thinks will be a “victory” for both the unity of the EU and for “common sense”.

Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawicki said: “Europe needs approval of the Covid funds and the new multi-year budget,” but also legal “certainties” to avoid unjustified “attacks” on countries.

“Today we are afraid of being attacked in an unjustified way. But obviously, in the future it can be any country,” he said.

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