Jul 20, 2020
Over the past few days, EU leaders have been discussing the post-COVID-19 recovery plan which currently stands at €1.85 trillion ($2.1 trillion). The EU summit started in Brussels on Friday and was meant to resume on Monday. Despite the plan for the summit to last just two days, the EU bloc leaders were unable to resolve several important matters.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte commented on the events of the night. “At times it didn’t look good last night, but I feel that, on the whole, we are making progress,” on the other hand, German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested that it’s possible EU leaders will not come to a conclusion to help aid EU’s tampered economy following the pandemic.
The summit stopped early on Monday morning and is due to continue in the afternoon – it was meant to end on Saturday, originally. The conflict between southern and eastern European countries has caused a deep rift among the 27 EU states. The leaders could not agree on the size of the recovery fund; Mark Rutte challenged other leaders and insisted on a cap of €350 billion worth of grants – favoring loans of strict conditions. This position has been dubbed “Frugal Four,” ( the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria Denmark, and Finland are part of this group). Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, compared Mark Rutte to Communist-era police since he was the toughest of Frugals. Mark Rutte believes that his government should be able to veto the COVID-19 recovery grants and is sticking to unanimity.
“We’re not here so we can go to each others’ birthdays for the rest of our lives — we’re all here to defend the interests of our own countries,” Rutte commented. Other leaders commented that Mark Butte is threatening “EU unity at the time of crisis”. His behavior was said to match that of Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron. Rutte insists that he will go as far as t €375 billion, while others demand to go over €400bn.
As tempers flared, Emmanuel Macron banged his fist on the table as he told the Frugal Four that they are putting the European project in danger. Giuseppe Conte said Europe was being “blackmailed” by the Frugals. The Italian Prime Minister apparently told Mark Rutte: “You might be a hero in your home country for a few days. But after a few weeks, you will be held responsible for blocking an effective European response to COVID-19.
Nous faisons bloc avec la Chancelière Merkel pour un plan de relance sans précédent, au niveau de la crise que nous traversons, à la hauteur des enjeux pour l’emploi, pour le climat, pour notre souveraineté et les valeurs de l’Europe.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) July 19, 2020
” We are united with Chancellor Merkel in calling for an unprecedented recovery plan, at the level of the crisis we are going through, commensurate with what is at stake for employment, for the climate, for our sovereignty, and for Europe’s values.” – President Emmanuel Macron.
“This is really a very, very difficult negotiation because it is not only about this one new set of big money, but it really changes the contours of monetary union,” said Guntram Wolff, Director of the Bruegel economic think tank in Brussels, “It’s the first time the EU borrows money to give it as grants to countries. So it’s really a game changer in terms of how this monetary union, how this European Union works.”
As negotiations broke up in the early hours on Monday morning, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel walked out of the negotiations together demonstrating strong Franco-German solidarity. However, upon his arrival to continue the negotiations, Emmanuel Macron said that he was hoping to start the day “with a lot of determination to make progress”. The French President tweeted,” In Brussels, the negotiations are difficult, but there is a spirit of compromise. This spirit must retain the ambition of a recovery plan that is equal to the crisis, the ambition of a European policy for the future on food, climate, and technological sovereignty.”