The proposed recovery fund for pandemic-stricken economies and industries will be discussed in Brussels as leaders meet in person on Friday for the first time since the health crisis exploded onto the Continent. The EU is faced with its deepest recession since the end of the Second World War as its economy emerges from its coronavirus slumber. Spain has warned if a package, which also includes the EU’s next long-term budget, cannot be agreed by the end of July then the worst-hit member states will fail to recover.
Lashing out at the plan’s opponents, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez fumed: “There will be no recovery if there is no unity, if there is no agreement.”
He added: “I am very aware that there is a difficult negotiations ahead, very difficult. There are conflicting interests, there are also different visions of the common European project has to be and non is better than another, all are legitimate.
“But the lesson we have to draw from these decades of European construction is that the Union has never been built on the basis of vetoes, always on the basis of a willingness to negotiate and reach agreements.”
Mr Sanchez made his desperate call for help after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as part of his tour of the continent ahead of Friday’s showdown in Brussels.
Spain was the second hardest-hit EU state by the pandemic and was forced to shutdown its economy in order to halt the spread of the deadly virus.
Madrid is now in line to be one of the largest recipients from the €750 billion fund drawn up by the European Commission.
Under Ursula von der Leyen’s plan, €500 billion will be distributed in the form of grants and €250 billion as low-cost loans.
It is largely based on a Franco-German proposal devised by Emmanuel Macron and Mrs Merkel.
The German Chancellor, who is currently the head of the EU’s rotating presidency, will use her vast experience and seniority to play an influential role in the negotiations.
She has issued a rallying cry, urging leaders to reach a timely deal when they travel to the Belgian capital this week.
Mrs Merkel said: “It would be desirable to reach a quick result but I don’t know whether there will be success on Friday and Saturday.
“Time is pressing.”
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The Netherlands has insisted on strict conditioning to access the funds based on economic reforms, a mechanism ruled out by southern countries like Italy and Spain.
The so-called “Frugal Four” – Austria, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands – have also demanded the balance between loans and grants to readdressed in the coronavirus fund.
Hungary’s Viktor Orban has also threatened to veto the package if new spending plans are linked to ongoing probes into alleged rule of law breaches.