EU virus deal talks stretch into four day

Mon, 20 Jul 2020 Source: BBC

EU leaders trying to reach an agreement on a huge post-coronavirus recovery fund have stretched into a fourth day.

There are reportedly deep differences between the leaders, who are trying to negotiate the deal at the same time as the bloc's next long term budget.

Some member states believe the proposed €750bn ($857bn; £680bn) package is too large and should come as repayable loans, rather than grants.

The talks are reported to have been testy, with tempers flaring at times.

AFP news agency reported that in the early hours of Monday morning, French President Emmanuel Macron banged his hand on the table and threatened to walk out of the discussions.

Discussions are due to resume at 12:00 GMT on Monday.

With the impasse still unbroken on Sunday evening, President of the European Council Charles Michel reminded the leaders that more than 600,000 people had died of the virus worldwide, and he hoped that the "headline tomorrow is that the EU has accomplished mission impossible".

On Monday morning, the total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus was almost 14.5 million globally.

How are the EU talks going? EU leaders first met on Friday in Brussels to discuss the bloc's €1 trillion seven-year budget and the planned stimulus package to help countries recover the pandemic.

It was the first face-to-face meeting between leaders since governments began imposing lockdowns in a bid to stop the spread of the virus in March.

Member states are split between those hit hardest by the outbreak, and those concerned about the costs of the recovery plan.

Some northern nations like the Netherlands and Sweden have balked at the package, arguing it should take the forms of loans not grants.

But nations including Italy and Spain are desperate to revive their shattered economies, and have accused the EU of not doing enough to help countries hit by the pandemic. Italy in particular was one of the earliest European countries to suffer an outbreak and has recorded 35,000 deaths - one of the highest tolls in the world.

Italian PM Giuseppe Conte said Europe was "under the blackmail of the 'frugals'" and described negotiations as "heated".

Hungarian PM Viktor Orban accused Dutch PM Mark Rutte of a personal vendetta and of trying to link financial help to political issues. Mr Orban, and his ally Poland, have threatened to veto the package if it adopts a policy of withholding funds from nations who do not meet certain democratic principles.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said there was "a way to go", but that it was possible a deal could be achieved.

Mrs Merkel said: "I still cannot say whether we will find a solution. There is a lot of goodwill but also many different positions."

Source: BBC
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