The summit continued for several days longer than planned due to strong differences over a COVID-19 recovery fund and a long-term budget.
EU leaders have coordinated an economic recovery fund and a long-term financial plan at a summit in Brussels, EU Council President Charles Michel announced.
“We have an agreement, a good agreement! With a budget of 1.074 trillion euros [$1.2 trillion] and a recovery plan of 750 billion euros [$857 billion]. The EU has never dared to invest so ambitiously in the future”, Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes confirmed on Twitter.
According to Michel, “This agreement sends a concrete signal that Europe is a force for action”.
Ahead of the plenary session, Michel said that he would offer new proposals on the EU’s long-term budget and recovery plan, describing it as the “fruit of lots of collective work”. According to media reports, he suggested that the 750-billion euro ($854 billion) recovery fund consist of 390 billion euros in grants and 360 billion euros in loans.
The plan initially included 500 billion euros in grants and 250 billion euros in loans for EU nations. The so-called Frugal Four group of European countries — Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden — opposed the plan, insisting that money should be issued in the form of loans rather than grants.
Reaction From European Leaders
Addressing the adoption of the recovery fund, French President Emmanuel Macron stated it was “a historic day for Europe”, adding that around 30 percent of the EU budget will be headed towards ecology projects.
“Extraordinary events and this pandemic that has reached us all, also requires extraordinary new methods”, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed.
“When Germany and France stand together, they can’t do everything. But if they don’t stand together, nothing is possible”, the French president added.
“There were a few clashes, but that’s all part of the game”, said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who was pushing for a more prudent budget. He also noted he has a “warm” relationship with his Italian counterpart Giuseppe Conte, as well as with Macron and Merkel, despite their different positions.