EU leaders converge on Brussels for what are expected to be hard-fought talks to thrash out a deal on the budget and recovery fund

Speaking ahead of the meeting, which is expected to go into Saturday, Charles Michel and David Sassoli, set out their stalls on what they hope will emerge from the crucial summit.
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By Martin Banks

17 Jul 2020

On the table is a proposed €1.074 trillion core EU budget package for the next seven years and a €750 billion recovery fund — an eye-catching total of €1.824 trillion.

Because of COVID-19 concerns, only the leaders themselves will be allowed in the summit room in the council building in Brussels - the biggest available in the so-called “Europa” building. It has a capacity of 300 people in normal times.

The so-called “Frugal 4” - Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Austria - have raised objections to the size of the fund and the way the money may be distributed.

German Socialist MEP Bernd Lange, speaking to this site before the meeting started on Friday morning, said, “The European heads of state and government have the historic opportunity not only to show Europe the way out of the crisis but also to make Europe fit for the future. “

“This is only possible with an ambitious recovery plan and an EU budget. If we don't finally take the big leap now, future generations will have to pay for it. I hope that all summit participants are aware of this responsibility.”

“The European heads of state and government have the historic opportunity not only to show Europe the way out of the crisis but also to make Europe fit for the future “ German Socialist MEP Bernd Lange

Lange added, “This is not about internal political sensitivities but about the big picture. If we do not show now that Europe stands together in solidarity and is finally ready to grow even closer together, when will we do so?"

More comment came from German Greens MEP Sven Giegold who also told this site, “Heads of state and government must reach agreement on the reconstruction plan and the EU budget at this summit. There is nothing to justify postponing it, because the countries and companies hard hit by the crisis now need the help from Europe.”

"A compromise for a powerful reconstruction plan must not come at the expense of the EU budget. With a weakened EU budget, economic recovery efforts would end in a few years and Europe would be worse off than before.”

Speaking at a news briefing in parliament on Friday, the assembly’s president David Sassoli gave a summary of his meeting with EU leaders earlier in the morning.

He told reporters, “I told them [heads of state and government] there is a great responsibility on them to put in place the funds to support the recovery. I made it clear they have this major responsibility and they cannot afford an agreement not to happen this weekend or to drift into September.”

“I made it clear that we are at a time when we cannot postpone decisions any longer. That would be a defeat for us all. A high level of responsibility must apply now more than ever. These talks must be done in a community spirit. That is in the interests of a common response. We all hope this council summit will conclude with a deal to allow inter-institutional talks, with the European Parliament, to then start.

"A compromise for a powerful reconstruction plan must not come at the expense of the EU budget. With a weakened EU budget, economic recovery efforts would end in a few years and Europe would be worse off than before” German Greens MEP Sven Giegold

“Any postponement could trigger new financial storms and imperil the EU. It is very important there is a decision now but that does not mean that this will be the final choice. The parliament, remember, has a say on this and we have our priorities. These include the issue of own resources, in other words, an EU that can fund itself and one that involves no dipping into the pockets of citizens.”

“Parliament’s voice must be heard but the €750bn recovery fund is persuasive for us and the European Commission’s blueprint is convincing.

The Italian MEP also said that future distribution of EU funds must be strictly conditional on a respect for rule of law and democracy. He said, “The EU is not a bank machine or an ATM and, in the final agreement, there must be a clear reference to what holds us together as Europeans. We must defend the rule of law and also ensure that debt which accumulates in the future does not weigh down on future generations.

He added, “These, along with climate action, are the parliament’s priorities in these talks this weekend. If this criteria is met the EU will come out of this crisis stronger.

“But, now, above all, I do believe there is a sense of cooperation. The lesson of all this is that the more cooperation there is the better it will be for all. The crisis shows that Coronavirus does not recognise borders. It does not knock on the door but comes straight into your home so we need a Europe that is more self- sufficient. That is what all institutions are trying to do now.”

"The lesson of all this is that the more cooperation there is the better it will be for all. The crisis shows that Coronavirus does not recognise borders. It does not knock on the door but comes straight into your home so we need a Europe that is more self- sufficient" European Parliament President David Sassoli

European Council president Charles Michel, tasked with trying to bring all sides together to reach a deal this weekend, said the task facing EU leaders “is of an exceptional nature and size,” which is why the Commission had proposed a plan “of an exceptional nature and size.”

He added, “The crisis brought about by this pandemic, with all of its economic and social consequences, is the most severe we have had to face since the Second World War.”

“This represents the equivalent of 17 percent of the wealth produced in one year in the EU. This investment is far greater than the economic support measures adopted by the United States and China. EU action in 2020 has been much swifter and more forceful than during the financial crisis in 2008-2010.”

Michel said, “The negotiations to reach an agreement between the 27 European leaders on the European recovery plan are not easy but it is worth it. The raison d'être of the EU’s financial resources is, first and foremost, to support the recovery and help our countries and our regions make up the gaps in development between them.

"The negotiations to reach an agreement between the 27 European leaders on the European recovery plan are not easy but it is worth it. The raison d'être of the EU’s financial resources is, first and foremost, to support the recovery and help our countries and our regions make up the gaps in development between them" European Council president Charles Michel

“COVID-19 has hit some parts of Europe and the more financially vulnerable countries harder than others, and they will have more trouble recovering. If we don’t repair the damage as soon as we can, it is not just for the regions directly affected that the consequences would be dramatic. They would also be damaging for Europe as a whole.”

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