Tough talks ahead as EU leaders begin talks on budget, Covid recovery fund

Brussels, Jul 17 (efe-epa).- European Union leaders on Friday arrived in Brussels for a special two-day summit on the bloc’s budget and the coronavirus recovery fund, which has so far been rejected in its current state by frugal member states like the Netherlands.

The European Council has proposed an ambitious seven-year budget worth 1 trillion euros but 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.

Added to the agenda for the talks on Friday and Saturday is a coronavirus recovery fund worth 750 billion euros, 500 billion euros of which would be made available as grants and the rest as loans.

The proposal has the backing of the EU’s institutions and powerful countries like Germany and France but is set to cause friction in negotiations as the so-called frugal four, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark, push for more loans and fewer grants in the package as well as influence over how the money would be spent by recipient nations.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte set the scene upon his arrival to the Europa building in Brussels.

“We don’t believe in his grants-based system,” he said.

He added that if southern European nations needed financial support from the bloc’s wealthier members then the recovery package should be underpinned by commitments to domestic reforms sectors like the labor and pension markets.

“We need a strong Europe in an unstable world,” he said.

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

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said it was possible to find a solution during the special summit this weekend and that European citizens were depending on the bloc’s leaders to fulfil their duty to overcome the crisis.

“The stakes could not be higher,” she told reporters.

“If we do it right, we can overcome this crisis stronger,” she added. “The solution is possible.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel was reserved about the possible outcome of the talks.

“We come here with a lot of momentum, but we have to say that we have big differences and we can’t tell whether we will get results or not.”EFE-EPA


Related Articles

Back to top button