«The agreement is not guaranteed. In fact, there are still many differences and many bridges to build, “recognized a European source yesterday. He did it in such a muted tone that he exuded discouragement. “No, no, I’m being realistic,” he said. The point is that, as a result of reality, resignation has been eating up the pandemic urgency in a Brussels that today hosts the first face-to-face summit of heads of state and government since the end of February.
Five months of videoconference appointments, crossings of ’emails’, proposals and counter-proposals, negotiations by senior officials, and a handful of weeks of bilateral meetings have failed to save the gaps on the plan to which the EU (and especially Spain, Italy and France, the worst hit by the coronavirus) have trusted its economic and social reconstruction. Some disagreements that overlap with the perennial of any negotiation of the European multi-annual budget. And since the two files are on the leaders’ table today, the discussions will last forever.
The summit starts at 10:00 am. And it should end tomorrow. But little (or nothing) is “predictable.” It is not clear that the negotiation is going to take a break at dawn (the leaders would return to their hotels). Nor does it exclude the possibility that it will make the leap until Sunday (the tactic of the exhaustion pact) nor, of course, that the blockade is such that the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, be forced to quote them again before the end of the month.
And that everyone, the Twenty-seven, agree that there must be an exceptional aid program; that the European Commission can borrow to finance it; and in that the assistance must prioritize the most disadvantaged. But little else. Because there is no solid basis in terms of its size (the 750,000 million euros of the fund are today so ‘theoretical’ that lower amounts are already leaking). Nor is there unanimity on whether to consider subsidies and loans or just loans. Or if the use of money has to have ‘extra’ supervision and be accompanied by structural reforms with the imposition of adjustments. The Netherlands is the hardest here: it calls for more political control, the unanimous approval by the Council of each national plan to be funded. The qualified majority that is proposed is not enough for him.
Although it would not be correct to pose that the frentismo is only a question of the frugal (Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark) and all the others. It is one of the keys, yes. But there are others. From Budapest, vetoes are also threatened if respect for the rule of law is reinforced as a condition (and Hungary also has Poland there). In addition, the ‘rebates’ or compensations to countries that contribute more than they receive from the budget (the Netherlands would ‘take’ more than 1,500 million, for example) also have many detractors. Spain, in fact, asked at the previous summit that they be eliminated. And the rigor with decarbonisation targets is also choking more than one (Poland, again). I said, everything is very open.
Urgency and responsibility
So as much as Angela Merkel (EU President on Duty) is pressing to resolve this mess in July. As much as Michel appeals to the responsibility of the leaders (“to the work and political will to close an essential agreement”). As much as Christine Lagarde calls for the ‘batteries to be put’ to the blow of collapses of the GDP (the -8.7% on average in the eurozone this year). As much, ultimately, that a critical situation is experienced, There is no guarantee this Friday that the coveted covenant of this summit can emerge.
Merkel will play an “important role, but the agreement has to be everyone’s,” diplomatic sources say. It insists, unanimity is necessary. Michel was negotiating yesterday against the clock with different leaders (Emmanuel Macron was one of them) to tie some end because “this is the moment of the agreement”. And Lagarde has appealed from Frankfurt (once again) to “close the ambitious package without wasting any more time.” “All announcements should be aimed at helping people suffering from the effects of the pandemic,” added the French. It is common sense.
They have also recovered in Brussels the usual political family meetings before each summit and which serve to bring the position closers. Pedro Sánchez met with the socialist leaders. And while, from the European Parliament, which has the last word on a potential commitment of the Governments, another warning is launched: the proposal for a cut in the budget that Michel defends (1,074 billion compared to the 1.1 raised by the Commission) does not convince them. And that is another front that should not be lost sight of either. A sum and go on.