It ended badly on Friday. With suspension from the summit at midnight due to a “sour” environment (in the words of the Dutch Mark Rutte). Saturday was even worse, with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron hastily (and angrily) leaving a meeting with the ‘frugal’ that had been forced after another cancellation of the plenary. And today the third and “decisive” day of the summit – the unscheduled one – has not concluded at the close of this edition. Of course, it has started under the threat of collapse to (apparently) be channeled toward an agreement with a depleted fund and downward subsidies. On the table, the last offer of the ‘frugal’: 700,000 million in total and credits and transfers, at 50% (it is recalled that the base of the latter was half a trillion).
Part by part. The German chancellor warned early in the morning that the negotiation continued bogged down“I will do my part, but I do not guarantee that there is an agreement,” he said. And the French added that, in any case, he was not going to subscribe “at any price.” They were direct messages to the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark, who were continuing to push to slim the recovery fund (or ‘Next Generation EU’), get higher checks for their contributions to the multi-year budget and, in the case of The Hague, also for your right to veto each disbursement.
Merkel and Macron’s messages sounded like an ultimatum. They were being thrown before a new meeting at Twenty-seven that had been announced for noon and was postponed. And again. First, “at the earliest,” until four in the afternoon. Then 5.30 pm was marked. And finally, it started around 7:30 p.m. Dinner with an open end. Waking night.
During all that waiting, the negotiation has not stopped. As it had happened on Saturday, it was capitalized by the discussions in a reduced format, by bilateral meetings and group meetings. All very active. Merkel, Macron and Charles Michel, with the Prime Ministers of Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands. Also with Pedro Sánchez and Giuseppe Conte. The ‘frugal’ met alone (with the incorporation of Finland). They also did it with Italy and Spain. An endless chain of contacts from which images were disseminated that alternated detente with satiety or resignation (Merkel) … and, by the way, with no face masks in sight, no longer on the terrace, nor in the offices.
Portuguese Antonio Costa or Hungarian Viktor Orban have been among the few who have gone abroad to speak to journalists. And Sánchez? Not a ‘tweet’. The Hungarian did it in a nearby park. And from there he lashed out at Rutte. On the matter that struck him the most (the greatest link between the granting of funds and respect for the rule of law), but with a broad wave of expansion. He said this: “I don’t know why he hates me.” Launched: «If the agreement is blocked it is not for me but for the ‘Dutch guy’. If it breaks, it’s because of him, not me. He is responsible for all the trouble we have ».
Hungary (also Poland) accumulate files and condemnations for authoritarian drifts. So as a ‘zasca’, Orban is for quarantining. He was fortunate (in quotes) that the (very thorny) rule of law issue seemed overshadowed by the “diametrically opposed positions” (epithet for Luxembourgish Xavier Bettel) prevailing over the ‘Next Generation EU’. Dark clouds.
“It is a question of elucidating whether the agreement is really possible,” acknowledged the Spanish delegation. Not so much that the President of the European Council presented a third negotiating proposal with more concessions. The obstacles were already more than identified. And nobody took them away. It slipped that Michel had returned to account to the loss: 100,000 million less in the package of subsidies. He doubled the amount he transferred to the loan chapter in his offer the day before. Bill? 400,000 million in transfers and 350,000 in credits (compared to the original 250,000). More scissors distorted the fund’s objective: to help, without generating more debt, the countries most affected by the pandemic; to Italy and Spain.
The South could take on that new snip. But it did not go through the veto ring at each disbursement. Holland did not give his arm there to twist. It requires unanimity in the event that a country does not meet the objectives and the required reforms. You have already achieved what was called an “emergency brake”, which gave you the key to ‘report’ breaches within three days; something that would be resolved either in the council of European ministers of economy (Ecofin) or in a summit.
But not unanimously, but by a qualified majority. And this without invalidating the biannual supervision of reforms and recommendations, with the mechanisms that already work in the EU. The question is whether the ‘austere’ bilge (700,000 million total and 350,000 in subsidies). Was this going to be the airstrip? Sailing