EU talks over recovery plan continue with no major breakthrough

A special summit of the European Union (EU) leaders, which aims to decide on the next seven-year budget and a massive COVID-19 recovery fund, continued for the third day with no major breakthrough.

The summit, the first physical meeting of the heads of state and government of the EU member states since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Europe, is supposed to seek consensus on the landmark 750 billion-euro ($857 billion) recovery package embedded in the over 1 trillion euros 2021-2027 budget, reports Xinhua news agency.

The summit kicked off here on Friday and was supposed to end on Saturday according to its original schedule.

Spokespersons for the leaders kept updating their Twitter accounts with posts and photos, showing EU leaders talking in small groups instead of plenary sessions.

“Day turning into evening, plenary yet to come,” tweeted a member of the Finnish group led by the country’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin at around 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Finland was said to stand close to the Frugal Four, namely the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria and Sweden, which call for drastic cuts in grants given to the countries hardest hit by the pandemic.

Under the proposals on the table, the debt-financed 750 billion euros would be divided into non-repayable grants and loans to help the member states recover from the crisis triggered by COVID-19, but the ratio remains in dispute, among others.

Earlier in the day, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that, despite some progress made, there was still “a long way to go” to reach an agreement on the third day of talks.

During the dinner, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa tweeted a chart from the European Commission showing the great benefits achieved by member states thanks to the single market against their contributions to the bloc’s budget, formally known as the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).

“EU was built on the assumption that you can trust each other to cooperate in good faith. This kind of trust is why countries have opened their borders and their markets and created a #singlemarket.

“Its benefits largely outweigh the cost of contributing to the MFF,” said Jansa, referring to the intention of wealthy EU countries to ask for more rebates, an assertion largely rejected by the rest.