The third day of the summit of heads of state and government in Brussels It already points to a closure without an agreement. After three days of negotiations, the positions remain distant and each time the chances of the conclave concluding with a pact are further reduced to launch the reconstruction fund to face the crisis unleashed by the coronavirus.
This is at least clear from the statements made this morning by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the French president Emmanuel Macron. The so-called frugal countries (Holland, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Finland) insist on reducing the amount of the fund earmarked for direct aid and subsidies, while the countries of Southern Europe (led by Spain and Italy) are opposed to the disbursement of the money being conditioned to strong adjustments in the Welfare State and the veto of the frugal.
The positions are “diametrically opposite“, as acknowledged by the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel. Upon arrival at the European Council headquarters, where the summit is being held, Merkel has expressed doubts about the possibility that European leaders can reach an agreement on the budget community and the recovery fund on the “decisive” day of this Sunday because there are still “many different positions” between the capitals.
Macron, for his part, has pointed out that “it’s still possible“reach an agreement, but has also warned that the commitments will not be made” at the cost of European ambition “and has warned that the consensus to overcome the serious economic, health and social crisis that the EU is going through is something that the” unity “of Europe” also needs “.
Bilateral meetings delay summit
Bilateral meetings to try to unlock the negotiations for the European Recovery Fund and the Community budget for the next seven years have delayed the formal start of the third day of the summit, which was scheduled for 12.00 this Sunday but had not yet started in the early afternoon.
The question now is whether the summit will last until Monday (initially it was scheduled for two days) or if it closes without an agreement and a date is already set for a new summit, so that the negotiating teams can weave the foundations for the future. agreement.
The President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, has held meetings with Merkel, Macron, and with the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, in addition to the President of the European Commission, Ursula Van der Layen.
Sánchez has also spoken by phone with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, who yesterday proposed to reduce the direct aid fund by 50,000 million, to 450,000 million, to try to convince the Netherlands and frugal countries, who demand hard cuts in the welfare state of aid recipients.
In return, Michel’s proposal included a mechanism that would give frugal countries in practice the ability to veto aid disbursement if they consider that the reforms proposed by the beneficiary nations are insufficient. Something that Spain and Italy oppose.
Spain was willing to accept that the Netherlands can delay the disbursement of aid if it considers that adequate reforms have not been adopted, but not to ultimately veto its payment. The government of Sánchez trusts that Germany’s support will be decisive so that in the end the veto of the frugal countries is not imposed.
“Negotiation continues. On the one hand, the vast majority of countries, including the largest: Germany, France, Spain and Italy, which defend the European institutions and the European project and, on the other hand, a few countries, called ‘frugal’ “Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has summarized the differences in a message published on social media.
Negotiation continues. On the one hand the vast majority of countries – including the largest Germany, France, Spain, Italy – that defend the European institutions and the European project and on the other a few countries, called “frugal”. #EuCo pic.twitter.com/G1UcOb5lRj
– Giuseppe Conte (@GiuseppeConteIT) July 19, 2020
Orban, the unexpected ally
Another major obstacle to the agreement is conditionality to respect for the rule of law, which, according to Macron, most countries support. However, this principle collides with the formal rejection of Poland and Hungary, whose Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, has challenged European partners by arguing that if a member state is shown to violate core values, “it must immediately leave the EU.”
The Hungarian leader has accused Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte of blocking the negotiations for demanding more control over the fund’s aid and also for demanding more stringent conditionality on the rule of law.
Of the Dutch prime minister, Orbán has said that he does not know the reason why he “hates” him and Hungary, but that he defended in the meeting that it violates the rule of law and for this he should be punished.
“That is unacceptable,” continued Orbán, who recalled that the 27 have not made any decision against Hungary – the rule of law procedure has been paralyzed for a year – and has called on them to “negotiate and take a decision”.