The leaders of the European Union countries on Sunday after 7pm sat down to a joint dinner during the summit in Brussels. Throughout the day, the leaders of the EU “27” failed to start a full meeting, where the subject of the long-term Community budget and the recovery fund after the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic was to be discussed.
The head of the European Council Charles Michel has postponed the start of Sunday talks of EU leaders who were to resume the meeting of “27” on Sunday at 12 o’clock. Michel, contrary to announcements, also did not present on Sunday morning new compromise proposals on EU finance for the next seven years and fund for housing the economy after the crisis caused by the pandemic caused by the coronavirus.
Heads of State and Government have been discussing a € 1.82 trillion package since Friday, including a € 750 billion reconstruction fund and an EU budget of € 1.074 trillion for 2021-2027.
EU leaders sat down to a joint dinner after 7 p.m. TVN24 correspondent Maciej Sokołowski, who is observing the EU negotiations, however, pointed out that “27” is very divided, among other things, regarding the amount of funding needed.
The “thrifty” group is growing
One of the dividing lines at the EU summit concerns the recovery plan after the coronavirus crisis. Charles Michel first met on Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. Then the four of them went to talks with the prime ministers of Italy: Giuseppe Conte, Greece, Kyriakos Micotakis, and Portugal, Antonio Costa.
These countries are in favor of using non-repayable grants as much as possible in the reconstruction plan. The Franco-German agreement on which the EC’s proposal was based envisages that it will be EUR 500 billion, and the additional EUR 250 billion would be in the form of loans.
Such proportions are opposed by Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland, which – according to EU sources – would now like the grants to be less than EUR 400 billion. The leaders of these countries met on Sunday afternoon with the leaders of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, who – although they did not share enthusiasm about the cuts – did not mind the stricter conditions for spending money.
Poland and Hungary say no
There is also a dissonance among leaders due to the proposal to link EU payments with compliance with the rule of law. Here, the leaders of Poland and Hungary stood in front of a number of countries. Unofficial reports show that Slovenia and Latvia also raised doubts about this mechanism.
According to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, this proposal is a tool in the hands of “stronger states”. – It is treated as a kind of scarecrow and we cannot agree on such a general condition, because it threatens with great risks, not only for Poland, not only for Central Europe. It is a tool in the hands of stronger countries that can begin to blackmail other countries at any time, “he said.
Against this background, publicly expressed claims were made by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban against the Dutch Prime Minister Marek Rutte. “He attacks very hard because, according to him, Hungary does not respect the rule of law and must be fined,” he complained to the head of the Dutch government, Orban. In his opinion, for some reason in this matter, Rutte is guided by greater aversion at the EU summit towards Hungarians than towards Poles. Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel defended the rule of law on Saturday afternoon. – Europe is not a supermarket from which you can choose whatever you like. Europe is also a value – he said to Bettel cameras.
Those who contribute the most to the budget want more control over their spending
Maciej Sokołowski reports that the entire EU dispute can be reduced to one, main division: those who contribute the most to the budget want to have the greatest possible control over expenditure. Discouraged by the attitude of Eastern Europe, discouraged by the lack of reforms in the south, they no longer have confidence and patience with the states of these regions. This applies to both the Reconstruction Fund, the rule of law and climate.
Main photo source: PAP / EPA