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Coronavirus: EU leaders agree €1.82trn budget and pandemic recovery fund

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European Union leaders have finally agreed a €1.82trn budget and coronavirus recovery fund after four days of sometimes bitter negotiations.

The €750bn (£677bn) coronavirus fund will be used as loans and grants to the countries hit hardest by the virus.

The remaining money represents the EU budget for the next seven years.

French President Emmanuel Macron (R), Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven (C), and Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen (L) speak during a round table meeting at an EU summit over a post-virus economic rescue plan in Brussels, on July 20, 2020. - EU leaders were gathered for a fourth day on July 20 during a summit to try to unblock a multi-billion-euro bundle of loans and direct aid to drag Europe out of the recession caused by the pandemic. (Photo by Francisco Seco / POOL / AFP) (Photo by FRANCISCO SECO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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EU leaders negotiated for more than 90 hours

The talks began on Friday between leaders of the 27-nation group, with a divide emerging between those nations hardest hit and those intent on a more “frugal” package of measures.

Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Austria all pushed back on an initial package of grants worth €500bn (£450bn), reportedly causing Emmanuel Macron, the French president, to bang his fists in anger.

Hard-hit countries, such as Spain and Italy, were asking for a more flexible deal to help them deal with the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

Announcing that a deal had been reached after a gruelling 90 hours of negotiations, president of the European Council, Charles Michel, wrote “Deal!” on Twitter at 4.31am local time (5.31am UK time).

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Talks lasted so long that leaders of Ireland and Luxembourg had to briefly leave Brussels to travel home, before returning to the negotiations later on.

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, told a press conference that the long summit had been “worth it”, adding: “Europe as a whole now has a big chance to come out stronger from the crisis”.

European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen (L) and European Council President Charles Michel (R) bump elbows at the end of the news conference following a four days European summit at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, early July 21, 2020. - EU leaders approved a 750-billion-euro package to revive their coronavirus-ravaged economies after a tough 90-hour summit on July 21, along with a trillion-euro budget for the next seven years. (Photo by STEPHANIE LECOCQ / POOL / AFP) (Photo by STEPHANIE LECOCQ/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel announced the measures

Mr Macron called the the deal a “historic day for Europe”, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “This is an important signal beyond Europe’s borders that the EU, even with all the (leaders’) varying backgrounds, is able to take action.”

Italian leader Giuseppe Conte said the plan “will allow (Europe) to face the crisis with strength and effectiveness.”

Mr Conte added that almost 30% of the €750bn (£677bn) recovery fund will be headed to Italy – a country where more than 35,000 people have died.

Mark Rutte, prime minister of the Netherlands and one of the so-called “frugal-five”, said that despite tough negotiations and disagreements, relations with EU partners remained “strong”.

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Europe became the centre of the outbreak in the early stages of the pandemic as strict lockdowns were imposed and tens of thousands of deaths recorded.

More than 135,000 people have died with coronavirus across the EU, with the bloc’s economy shrinking by 8.3%.

Now that most countries have significantly eased their lockdowns and stabilised the situation there is a focus on dealing with the huge economic fallout.

 

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