Reaching a swift agreement on an ambitious recovery package is the European Union’s highest priority for the coming weeks, the bloc’s leaders agreed at a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Germany took over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU on July 1, reports Xinhua news agency.
Charles Michel, Ursula von der Leyen and David Sassoli — the three top officials of the EU — analyzed with Merkel the economic forecasts for the coming months that point to a severe recession and noted that the crisis will have deep social impacts across the bloc.
A statement from the EU said they stressed that it would be essential that Heads of State and Government of the bloc’s 27 member states reach an agreement on its long-term budget and recovery plan during next week’s European Council meeting in order to allow further detailed negotiations to start.
The recovery plan envisions 500 billion euros in grants to EU member states, largely in southern Europe, that are hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fiscally conservative and wealthy northern states have so far been reluctant to greenlight such an important part of the recovery plan.
The EU’s long-term budget, which will span seven years, is also traditionally difficult as horse-trading between 27 member states are difficult to maneuver.
“If we want to come out stronger from the crisis, we must all change for the better. And this is what Europeans expect us to do,” von der Leyen said.
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the continent has reported a total 2,513,645 COVID-19 cases so far, while the death toll stood at 195,096.