EU summit farce: Bloc’s €750 billion deal ends with clear winners and losers
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Some left the Belgian capital, after almost 100 hours of talks, happier than others with clear winners and losers emerging as a result of the unprecedented package. For four straight nights leaders banged their fists, threatened walkouts and traded insults during the ill-tempered Brussels summit. As a result of the agreement, the European Commission will borrow on the international market in order to hand out €390billion in grants to the regions and industries worst hit by the pandemic.It was described as a monumental leap forward in European integration by the likes of European Council President Charles Michel and arch-federalist MEP Guy Verhofstadt. But Europe’s change of direction will have serious implications for those 27 member states involved in its future.
Prime minister Giuseppe Conte walked away from Brussels with a beaming smile and giving a thumbs up to the cameras waiting outside the European Council’s heavily guarded headquarters on Tuesday morning.
For his country, he had just secured vast sums of handouts paid for by taxpayers across the bloc, despite being the EU’s third-largest economy.
Italy stands to receive €209billion, or 28 percent of the total package, of which €81billion will be in grants and €127billion in low-cost loans.
Mr Conte said the cash had the power to “change the face of the country”.
The country becomes the second-largest recipient of aid after Italy, with a €140billion package being sent to Madrid.
Prime minister Pedro Sanchez ensured future governments would have to pay back less than half of that amount after securing €72.2billion in grants.
The lion’s share of the cash is heading to countries worst-hit by coronavirus. Spain, which has recorded a death toll of over 28,000, is expected to see its economy shrink by 10 percent.
Mr Sanchez said: “There is no doubt that today, one of the most brilliant pages in EU history has been written.”
Hungary and Poland
A backroom deal between Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban and Angela Merkel heralded in a shady era for EU politics.
Hungary and Poland are both facing Article 7 procedures, the bloc’s disciplinary measure, but German Chancellor agreed to bring the processes to a close by the end of the year.
This came after Budapest and Warsaw threatened to veto the entire summit while other capitals demanded strings for access to the cash linked to good behaviour.
The EU27 finally agreed that a weighted majority of governments can block payments to a country on rule-of-law grounds.
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Dublin were big losers in the package, their new prime minister Michael Martin conceded he had agreed to become net contributors to the coronavirus aid package.
Despite only having a population of less than five million, Ireland will contribute to the €18.4billion to the new scheme and only receive about €3.2billion back.
“It has been a long summit and a challenging summit,” Mr Martin conceded after the summit ended.
Ireland escaped the worst of coronavirus but is still expecting to see its economy plunge into a deep recession, like the main winners from the EU fund.
Ibec, a business group, said gross domestic product will fall by 11.1 percent this year – more than Spain and France.
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Dutch eurosceptics said their country had become an “ATM for Europe” after leaders reached a deal in Brussels.
Their prime minister, Mark Rutte, had gone into the negotiations demanding plans for grants were completely scrapped in favour of loans.
While reducing the size of the non-repayable cash handouts from €500 billion to €390billion, Mr Rutte received heavy criticism back home.
Dutch MEP Derk Jan Eppink, from the anti-EU Forum for Democracy, called for a referendum on the pact after taxpayers’ cash was handed over to Brussels.
He said: “The end of the Council was that Mark Rutte threw in the towel.
“What is the result is we ended up in trouble without the UK, we’re going to have European debts which Mr Rutte was always against.
“He talked about emergency breaks procedures but that is a farce.”
The European Council President’s first major job in his new role ended with him being accused of wasting time and scuppering early chances of an early deal.
The former Belgian prime minister was meant to build a consensus ahead of the summit, but his diplomacy efforts failed miserably.
He was also tasked with presenting the so-called “negotiating boxes” meant for EU leaders to use to craft the final agreement
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said lamented his “vague” proposals on the first day of talks, which led to almost 100 hours of bitter infighting.
She said: “If you look at the original summit draft, then you see it was vague and brought together different text blocks that don’t necessarily have a connection.”
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