Business & Economy

EU to hold first face-to-face budget summit since Covid-19

Brussels, Jul 16 (efe-epa).- European Union leaders are due to meet in person for the first time in five months as they gather in Brussels to discuss the bloc’s long-term budget and coronavirus recovery fund.

The Europa building, which houses the egg-shaped internal construct of meeting rooms, has been prepared for Friday and Saturday’s summit in accordance with the new healthy and safety rules required to minimize the risk of Covid-19.

Purified air will be circulated in the building and officials will have to wear masks, as well as shirk the usual handshakes and kisses on the cheek when greeting each other.

The last time Europe’s heads of state and government met in person at the European Council was on 20-21 February in a bid to agree on the 2021-27 budget.

There was no consensus, given the disparate positions of several member states.

A few days later, governments across the EU began to enforce lockdown procedures as the coronavirus began to take hold and spread rapidly.

Since then EU leaders have been limited to negotiating via videoconference, which, according to sources familiar with the process, does not allow for the same intensity as in-person discussions when it comes to complicated matters, such as the recovery fund needed to deal with the economic crisis.

Differences of opinions persist when it comes to that topic.

The Council has proposed a post-Covid economic recovery fund of 750 billion euros, 500 billion euros of which would be handed out as grants while the remaining 250 billion would be available as loans.

The Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark — the so-called Frugal Four — have called for credit rather than grants and want stricter regulation of the fund.

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