EU leaders reach deal on COVID-19 recovery package (Ld)

Leaders of the European Union (EU) reached a landmark deal on Tuesday after four days of marathon negotiations over a massive COVID-19 recovery fund and a budget for the next seven years.

An unprecedented 1.82 trillion euro ($2.1 trillion) deal was finally announced to confront the worst recession in the EU’s history, reports Xinhua news agency.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, tweeted “Deal” shortly after the 27 leaders reached the agreement at about 5.15 a.m. on Tuesday, adding that it was a “pivotal moment” for Europe.

Michel said the bloc had “showed collective responsibility…and our belief in a common future”.

The deal also centres on a 390 billion-euro programme of grants to member states hardest hit by the pandemic, the BBC reported.

Talks which began in Brussels on July 17 saw a split between nations hardest hit by the outbreak and “frugal” members who were concerned about costs.

The self-proclaimed frugal four – Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands – along with Finland, had opposed allowing 500 billion euros to be offered in the form of grants.

The group, led by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, originally set 375 billion euros as the limit, in addition to wanting conditions such as the right to block requests.

Other members, such as Spain and Italy, did not want to go below 400 billion euros.

The summit saw more than 90 hours of talks and became the EU’s longest since a 2000 meeting in the French city of Nice, which lasted for five days.

The package will now face more technical negotiations by member states, and need ratification by the European Parliament.

Responding to the development, French President Emmanuel Macron said it was a “historic day for Europe”.

“Never before did the EU invest in the future like this,” Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès tweeted.

Also taking to Twitter, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “Today we’ve taken a historic step, we all can be proud of. But other important steps remain. First and most important: to gain the support of the European Parliament.

“Nobody should take our European Union for granted. It is our common responsibility to deliver.”

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