Quantcast
Connect with us

EU leaders tackle huge virus recovery plan

Published

on

EU leaders launched fraught negotiations Friday, deeply divided over how to raise and then distribute a major recovery fund to revive a European economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

Europe faces its biggest recession in the bloc’s 63-year history, and states are under pressure to look beyond their own borders and to find ways to lift the whole continent.

ADVERTISEMENT

On the table at Friday’s virtual summit is a proposal from European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen for a 750-billion-euro ($840-billion) rescue fund that, if accepted, would mark a historic milestone for EU unity.

“We have a collective responsibility to deliver,” summit host Charles Michel, president of the leaders’ European Council, said on Twitter. “Now is the time to engage.”

But opposition is fierce from countries known as the “frugal four” — The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Austria — who have promised to fight deep into the summer to rein in the spending.

“It is clear that we expect no essential agreements at this summit,” said a government official in Germany, which takes over the EU’s rotating presidency on July 1 and will drive the negotiations.

“We know about the difficulties. This will be a big piece of work,” the official said.

ADVERTISEMENT

A French source called it a “warm-up round” that would “take the temperature” before leaders land a compromise in late July.

– ‘Sending the bill’ –

Lined up against the frugals are EU countries such as Italy and Spain that were the first and hardest hit by the pandemic, and quickly asked for help from their better-off partners.

ADVERTISEMENT

Crippled with overstretched finances, these countries lack the ability to fight the recession with a wave of extra spending and are looking for a highly visible act of solidarity.

The commission’s plan is inspired by a German and French proposal in which EU money is raised on the financial markets to spend Europe-wide in the biggest slice of joint borrowing ever undertaken by the union.

ADVERTISEMENT

By endorsing the plan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel broke Germany’s long-held taboo against pan-European pooled borrowing, catching the “frugals” off guard.

They have vowed nonetheless to fight on, most notably in insisting that the funds should be released as loans with strict conditions and not as grants or subsidies.

Speaking in the Swedish parliament on Thursday, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said the money needed to be repaid and quickly or otherwise leaders would be “sending the bill to future taxpayers.”

ADVERTISEMENT

In an interview with AFP, Italian Prime Minister tried to assuage these concerns, assuring that the money would build “a better Italy” that would be more modern and greener.

– ‘No petrol’ –

To help pay for the recovery plan, the proposal floats EU-wide taxation on big tech, or carbon emissions, to provide the European Commission with funds of its own.

A recovery plan without own-resources would be like “a motor without petrol”, a European source warned.

But this too could prove too controversial for several member states that are loath to see the EU financially self-sufficient and too close in spirit to a federal government like in the United States.

ADVERTISEMENT

Complicating matters still further, the recovery fund is linked to the EU’s long-term, seven-year budget which is being negotiated in parallel.

This has countries usually on the receiving end of EU spending — many in eastern Europe — worried that funds that historically came their way could be cut because of the recovery plan and they have also threatened to block the talks.

After this first round, EU Council head Michel will launch consultations with a view to one or two new summits in July in Brussels, this time in person.

A face-to-face meeting between leaders, with well-timed breaks and asides, is considered indispensable to reach a compromise on such a complex issue, where unanimity is required.

ADVERTISEMENT


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

US COVID death toll projected to hit almost 300,000 by December

Published

on

An influential novel coronavirus pandemic model now projects that deaths from the disease in the United States could hit almost 300,000 by the start of December.

NPR reports that researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation say that the United States is headed toward a grim fall in which COVID-19 deaths will nearly double from their current level of 160,000 in the next four months.

Continue Reading

COVID-19

The only Texas prison reporting zero coronavirus cases is where inmates make soap. But that’s not what’s credited with protecting it.

Published

on

Of more than 100 Texas prison units, the Roach Unit's apparent ability to avoid the virus has been attributed to a remote location and a warden who strictly enforces precautionary measures.

The only Texas prison that hasn’t had any staff or inmates test positive for the new coronavirus is the same one where inmates make soap and package hand sanitizer for the state’s lockups. Prisoners aren’t allowed to use the latter.

How this one unit seemingly remains untouched by a virus that has ravaged the state’s prison system, however, has been credited not to its soap factory, but to the prison’s location and the warden’s strict enforcement of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s coronavirus policy. Meanwhile, those inside prisons with hundreds of infected inmates have long reported dangerous practices. In lawsuits and letters, they have described officers without face masks, forced intermingling between infected and healthy prisoners, and limits to soap and cleaning supplies.

Continue Reading
 

COVID-19

Australia arrests two for planning anti-lockdown protest

Published

on

Australian police have arrested two men accused of planning an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne, an unusual move to stop an event that authorities said would put "lives at risk".

Police said Friday that the two men in their 40s had been detained after mobile phones and a computer were seized and both would be formally charged with inciting a criminal offence.

The pair were arrested following an investigation into a protest of hundreds of people planned for Melbourne city centre on Sunday, police told AFP.

The gathering would breach Melbourne's wide-ranging lockdown -- which entered into force Thursday, banning large gatherings and preventing residents from going outside except to work, exercise or buy essentials.

Continue Reading
 
 
You need honest news coverage. Help us deliver it. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image