October 23, 2020

The recovery fund runs aground under the conditions required of the beneficiaries


Brussels correspondent

Updated:

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Normally heads of state or government who come to Brussels to participate in a European Council usually book a hotel night. At the time when the Council president was the Polish Donald Tusk, there was even an attempt that the process could be aired in a single day, leaving things as prepared as possible in advance. However, such a degree of efficiency could never be achieved over time. Taking into account that they are 27 heads of delegation, just the round of speaking, at ten minutes each, means that the meetings cannot last less than three or four hours, however simple they may seem. At this European Council all records have been broken. From Friday morning to Sunday night locked in a huge, half-empty building trying to reach an agreement on the multi-year budget and rescue funds. All without exception say they share the need to reach an agreement, but not all assume that this requires concessions in all directions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the first to warn that all these hours of meetings in all directions could end in a fiasco. I cannot say if we will find a solution. There is a lot of good will but there are also many different positions. I will do my part, but it is also possible that there will not be a result today »she said upon arrival at the Europa building first thing in the morning.

After the bad atmosphere in which the last meeting ended on Saturday, in a clash with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Merkel had met at the hotel, before going to sleep, with the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen , and with the Italian Prime Minister, Giusseppe Conte. In the morning, the President of the Council, Charles Michel, had summoned Chancellor Merkel for breakfast, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Von der Leyen for a breakfast that lasted for several hours, because the idea was to prepare a new proposal that would only be unveiled if there were chances of it being accepted by all. In this work Michel was linked to meetings with all possible combinations of “frugal”, from the south, from the east or the indifferent ones. The fact is that the objective was to gather everyone from 12 o’clock, an attempt was made to do so at 4 o’clock, then at 4:30 and at the end it was only at 8 o’clock when they all saw each other again, although in this case it seems that they were more interested in the dinner, which was the real objective, than in the content of the meetings, which continued to revolve around the same points of discussion: the most reticent countries that call themselves « frugal »led by the Netherlands, along with Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, want to reduce by 50,000 million the account of what they want to dedicate to direct subsidies to the countries most affected by the consequences of the pandemic. They also want a similar reduction in the EU budget, and guarantees that the countries of the south will make specific reforms to make their economies more competitive and those of the east, specifically Poland and Hungary, will abandon the dangerous “ademocratic” drift that has been found. in recent years.

Macron had already said upon arrival that the compromise “is possible, but should not be done at the cost of ambition” of a “really ambitious” reconstruction fund.

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa counterattacked in full negotiations with a tweet in which he recalled the essence of the issue on which everyone has been arguing non-stop for days. “The EU was created on the assumption that everyone can trust each other to cooperate in good faith. This type of trust is the reason why countries have opened their borders and markets and created a single market. Its benefits far outweigh the cost of contributing to the European budget. ”

The tagline was accompanied by a statistic showing the countries that most benefit from their membership of the European market and among which – obviously – all the “frugal” are in the lead without exception, with a higher than average proportion among the immense benefits that its citizens receive and the price of their contribution to the community budget. The statistic is headed by Luxembourg, which would explain why its Prime Minister Xavier Bettel decided simply to be away for a few hours to travel to his capital (200 kilometers from Brussels) with the promise that he would return at dawn.

In this heavy and flawed environment, the latest news from abroad was a message from the President of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde. The President of the ECB normally participates in certain parts of the European Councils, but Lagarde has not come to this which is of such an exceptional nature. Her message was as clear as it could be in these circumstances: “It would be preferable to agree on a more ambitious recovery fund, at the height of the Commission’s proposal, although this requires a little more time.”

That the head of the issuing bank gives her opinion publicly at a time like this is probably a fact that had not occurred in the annals of the Council. Perhaps it was because she believes that we are in an equally exceptional situation.

Lagarde pressures

Lagarde’s position is much closer to that of France and Germany than that of the Netherlands and the “frugal”, including two (Sweden and Denmark) who do not even use the euro and who resist adopting it as belly cats above despite pressure from Brussels.

The alternative would be a new meeting on July 30, and in fact the services of the Council began yesterday afternoon to work with that possibility, if the presidents and prime ministers have to return to their capitals on Monday. But in terms of breaking all records, a summit with three hotel nights, from Friday to Saturday, from Saturday to Sunday and from Sunday to Monday, will be the absolute record for now.

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