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EU reaches historic deal on pandemic recovery after fractious summit

Economy Jul 21, 2020 14:21
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6/6 © Reuters. EU leaders summit in Brussels 2/6

By Jan Strupczewski, John Chalmers and Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders clinched an historic deal on a massive stimulus plan for their coronavirus-throttled economies in the early hours of Tuesday, after a fractious summit lasting almost five days.

The agreement paves the way for the European Commission, the EU's executive, to raise billions of euros on capital markets on behalf of all 27 states, an unprecedented act of solidarity in almost seven decades of European integration.

Summit chairman Charles Michel called the accord, reached at a 5.15 a.m. (0315 GMT), a pivotal moment for Europe.

Many had warned that a failed summit amid the coronavirus pandemic would have put the bloc's viability in serious doubt after years of economic crisis and Britain's recent departure.

World shares climbed to their highest since February and the euro briefly hit its strongest since March on news of the deal.

"This agreement sends a concrete signal that Europe is a force for action," a jubilant Michel told reporters.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who spearheaded a push for the deal with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, hailed it as truly historic.

Leaders hope the 750 billion euro (676.85 billion pounds) recovery fund and its related 1.1 trillion euro 2021-2027 budget will help repair the continent's deepest recession since World War Two after the coronavirus outbreak shut down economies.

Germany Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said that, with the agreement, the chances of "a cautious, slow recovery" in the second half of this year had increased enormously.

While strong in symbolism, the deal came at the cost of cuts to proposed investment in climate-friendly funds and did not set conditions for disbursements to countries, such as Hungary and Poland, seen as breaching democratic values.

In an unwieldy club of 27, each with veto power, the summit also exposed faultlines across the bloc that are likely to hinder future decision-making on money as richer northern countries resisted helping out the poorer south.

The Netherlands led a group of so-called frugal states with Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, insisting that aid to Italy, Spain and other Mediterranean countries that took the brunt of the pandemic should be mainly in loans, not in non-repayable grants.

"There were a few clashes, but that's all part of the game," said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, describing a warm relationship with his Italian counterpart, Giuseppe Conte.

But Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the frugals' negotiating power was here to stay, suggesting Europe's traditional Franco-German engine will be challenged.

ALMOST A SUMMIT RECORD

Frictions peaked on Sunday night as Macron lost his temper with the frugals, diplomats said, and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki branded them "stingy, egotistic states".

The bickering spun the summit out, making it the EU's second-ever longest, just 20 minutes short of a record set in 2000 in Nice, according to Rutte. "We would have broken the record at 6:05, but we ended at 5.45," he said.

Under the compromise, the Commission will borrow 750 billion euros using its triple-A debt rating, disbursing 390 billion in grants - less than the originally targeted 500 billion - and 360 billion in cheap loans.

Given the difficulties, talk of Europe's Hamilton moment - hailed as such by German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz on Monday in reference to Alexander Hamilton's decision to federalise debts of U.S. states in 1790 - is overblown.

The summit deal does not set the EU on the path towards a U.S.-style fiscal union, although some see it as a first step.

Rutte's negotiations won an emergency brake to temporarily stop transfers of money from the recovery fund if an EU state was seen as not meeting reform conditions tied to the money.

The frugals also secured larger rebates from the next EU budget, a payback mechanism first won by Britain in the 1980s and which France had hoped to phase out after Brexit.

The recovery plan now faces a potentially difficult passage through the European Parliament and it must be ratified by all EU states. The first money will likely not reach the real economy before the middle of next year, economists say.

EU reaches historic deal on pandemic recovery after fractious summit
 

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Comments (12)
rusty largo
rustylargo Jul 21, 2020 12:01
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A € United 27 culturally diverse leaders can agree on something....would you look at that Trump!. Johnson! may be these two can learn something about compassion for people's suffering? not holding any breath for that
Will Taylor
Will Taylor Jul 21, 2020 12:01
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Are you retarded?
Richard Allen
Richard Allen Jul 21, 2020 12:01
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Will Taylor yes they are.
Hans Ontits
Hans Ontits Jul 21, 2020 11:53
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Anglo Saxons and Nordics bailing everyone out again I see lol
Lloyd Ruskin
Lloyd Ruskin Jul 21, 2020 10:56
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The European money machine went #ching again. Will this be supported by credit swaps with the Fed in America?
Mon Sun
Mon Sun Jul 21, 2020 10:56
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Yes
Karsten Böhm
Karsten Böhm Jul 21, 2020 10:38
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and I as a German always pays the highest tax and compulsory levies in the world pays for this 'barrel without ground' I'm really angry.
TOLGA TANRIKORUR
TOLGA TANRIKORUR Jul 21, 2020 9:38
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german business iş in poland significantly... if i am not wrong 30 % of business in poland belongs to germans..
Eliott Frnt
Eliott Frnt Jul 21, 2020 9:28
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Historic! The European construction has started and always moved forward in the most challenging times, let’s hope this helps the nations to unifify !
Richard Allen
Richard Allen Jul 21, 2020 9:28
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what a hilariously naive statement.
Beebs Elite
Beebs Elite Jul 21, 2020 9:28
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It means poorly financed and led countries are bailed out yet again
Richie Russell
Richie Russell Jul 21, 2020 8:56
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I'm glad that they have come to an agreement as it will help Europeans and the markets but how long the EU lasts without fiscal union is the question. I doubt that the frugal nations will want to cede any more sovereignty.
Sugar Man
Sugar Man Jul 21, 2020 8:46
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Historic debt deal! EU is a laughing stock
Ash Nichanametla
Ash Nichanametla Jul 21, 2020 8:46
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I am from UK, many here are in their own world. They dont know that UK has become a big laughing stock. what a shame. Leaders like Bo Jo and Trump look at them.
Sugar Man
Sugar Man Jul 21, 2020 8:46
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SJW confirmed
Graham Kinnear
Graham Kinnear Jul 21, 2020 7:14
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Another Fudge. I bet the Frugals are happy that their tax payers will be getting bigger bills
Market Makers
Market Makers Jul 21, 2020 7:08
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Cat laugh
 
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