EU Leaders Reach Deal on Coronavirus Recovery
EU leaders have struck a deal on a huge post-coronavirus recovery package following a fourth night of talks.
It will see the 27-nation bloc offering €750bn (£677bn; $859bn) in grants and loans to counter the economic impact of the pandemic.
Summit chairman Charles Michel said it was a “pivotal moment” for Europe.
Talks which began on Friday saw a split between nations hardest hit by the outbreak and “frugal” members who were concerned about costs.
The deal centres on a €390bn programme of grants to member states hardest hit by the pandemic.
It was reached alongside agreement on the bloc’s next seven-year budget, worth about €1.1tn.
The summit, which began in Brussels on Friday morning, saw more than 90 hours of talks and became the EU’s longest since a 2000 meeting in the French city of Nice, which lasted for five days.
The package will now face more technical negotiations by member states, and need ratification by the European Parliament.
How did we get here?
Mr Michel, president of the European Council, tweeted “Deal” shortly after the 27 leaders reached the agreement at about 05:15 (03:15 GMT) on Tuesday.
The agreement followed a long weekend of talks between EU countries, during which tempers were often frayed.
Member states were largely split between those hit hardest by the outbreak and keen to revive their economies, and those more concerned about the costs of the recovery plan.
The self-proclaimed frugal four – Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands – along with Finland, had opposed allowing €500bn to be offered in the form of grants to countries hardest-hit by Covid-19. The group, led by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, originally set €375bn as the limit, in addition to wanting conditions such as the right to block requests.
Other members, such as Spain and Italy, did not want to go below €400bn.
At one point French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly banged his fists on the table, as he told the “frugal four” he thought they were putting the European project in danger.
The €390bn figure was suggested as a compromise, and “frugal” nations were reportedly won over by the promise of rebates on their contributions to the EU budget.
Another issue in the negotiations was how disbursements would be linked to governments respecting the rule of law. Hungary and Poland both threatened to veto the package if it adopted a policy of withholding funds from nations who do not meet certain democratic principles.
The European Commission will be in charge of distributing the funds, and the 27 member states will be able to turn down a spending plan if opposed by a weighted majority, according to AFP news agency.
How have European leaders reacted?
French President Emmanuel Macron said it was a “historic day for Europe”.
“Never before did the EU invest in the future like this,” Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès tweeted.
Mr Michel said the bloc had “showed collective responsibility…and our belief in a common future”.
“Today we’ve taken a historic step, we all can be proud of. But other important steps remain. First and most important: to gain the support of the European Parliament. Nobody should take our European Union for granted. It is our common responsibility to deliver,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted.