EU coronavirus recovery deal: Wrangling over huge plan enters fourth day~NEWSEXTRA - NEWS EXTRA ONLINE

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Monday, 20 July 2020

EU coronavirus recovery deal: Wrangling over huge plan enters fourth day~NEWSEXTRA



EU talks aimed at reaching an agreement on a huge post-coronavirus recovery fund have stretched into a fourth day.

The main division is between countries hit hardest by the virus - such as Italy and Spain - and some EU members seeking to limit the size of the fund and stricter controls on its use.

They argue the proposed €750bn ($857bn; £680bn) package is too large and should be repayable loans, rather than grants.

The talks are reported to have been testy, with tempers flaring at times.

In the early hours of Monday morning, French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly banged his hand on the table and threatened to walk out of the discussions.

And Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has admitted leaders were "close to failure" and talks could still "fall apart".

Discussions are due to resume at 14:00 GMT on Monday for what is now the longest EU summit since Nice 2000, when talks lasted five days.

President of the European Council Charles Michel reminded the leaders that more than 600,000 people had died of the virus worldwide, and he hoped that the "headline tomorrow is that the EU has accomplished mission impossible".

On Monday morning, the total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus was almost 14.5 million globally.

What's hampering compromise?

EU leaders are trying to negotiate the stimulus package to help countries recover the pandemic at the same time as the bloc's €1tn seven-year budget.

It was the first face-to-face meeting between leaders since governments began imposing lockdowns in a bid to stop the spread of the virus in March.

Member states are largely split between those hit hardest by the outbreak - and keen to revive their economies - and those more concerned about the costs of the recovery plan.

The self-proclaimed frugal four (Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands) along with Finland, have been unwavering in their refusal to allow €500bn to be offered in the forms of grants to countries hardest hit by the effects of Covid-19.

Led by Mr Rutte, they now say that €375bn is as far as they will go, plus conditions including the right to block requests. The others, including Spain and Italy, are refusing to go below €400bn.

How each country will benefit
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Italy in particular was one of the earliest European countries to suffer an outbreak and has recorded 35,000 deaths - one of the highest tolls in the world. Italian PM Giuseppe Conte said Europe was "under the blackmail of the 'frugals'" and described negotiations as "heated".

The new proposal being put on the table is €390bn. The Austrian chancellor has tweeted, suggesting there are signs of progress.


(C) BBC

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