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Special European Council

“Exceptional situations call for exceptional efforts.”

The Special European Council meeting is not over yet, as heads of state and government continue their consultations today. The focus is still on the multiannual financial framework and the COVID-19 recovery fund. Before talks began, Chancellor Angela Merkel said there are grounds for hope. "Last night, after long negotiations, we managed to hammer out a framework for a possible agreement."

Chancellor Angela Merkel with participants including European Council President Charles Michel,French President Emmanuel Macron, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen Chancellor Angela Merkel with participants including European Council President Charles Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

The substantial programme she proposed with French President Emmanuel Macron in May is now the basis for the decisions of the Commission, reported Chancellor Angela Merkel before the fourth day of negotiations. A significant percentage of grants has been agreed. And that, said the Chancellor, is "the response we need to an exceptional situation". The "incredibly tough negotiations" are to continue on Monday, but she said,"I hope that we will manage to go the rest of the way, although the path ahead will still not be easy."

A “great willingness to compromise” is needed from all sides

On Friday, before the start of the Special European Council, Merkel had underlined that “everyone (was) entering the consultations with plenty of vigour”. The differences in the positions were, however, “still very, very big”. In order to reach a solution, “a great willingness to compromise is needed from all sides”. The Chancellor said that Germany, together with France, wanted to support the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. “We will now have to work hard,” she said.

Focus on finances

This is the first time that the members of the European Council are meeting in person since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe. The question of how the economic and social impact of the pandemic can be mitigated is a clear priority on the agenda. In concrete terms, the European Council will discuss the Multiannual Financial Framework and the €750-billion emergency recovery instrument, Next Generation EU.

The Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) lays down how much the EU can spend during a stipulated period, usually seven years. The MFF does not contain concrete programmes, but merely defines the upper thresholds for overarching issues. The next MFF will apply from 2021 to 2027 and will be decided under Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Aid or loans?

One important question concerns the amounts of funding that will be available to the member states as non-repayable aid or as loans. Speaking on the topic of European solidarity in April, the Federal Chancellor said: “Germany can only fare well in the long term if Europe fares well.” This is also the motto of Germany’s Council Presidency: “Together for Europe’s recovery.”
 

Jul 19, 2020