| 12.3°C Dublin

Ireland’s battle for a share of EU funds now begins after €1.8 trillion pandemic recovery 'deal at dawn'

  • 'Europe force for action', says summit chairman Charles Michel
  • French president says deal truly historic
  • Agreement comes after fractious near-record-length summit
  • Euro jumps to fresh four-month high on deal

Close

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel towards the end of the meeting (John Thys/Pool/AP)

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel towards the end of the meeting (John Thys/Pool/AP)

AP/PA Images

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel towards the end of the meeting (John Thys/Pool/AP)

EU leaders have finally struck a deal on a €750m coronavirus rescue package - and a €1.8 trillion seven year budget plan taking the bloc up to 2027.

The deal came after five days of talks which stopped just short of an 85-hour talks record set at a summit in the year 2000 in the French city of Nice.

The outcome was warmly welcomed by Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, who said it would also bring huge benefits to Ireland. But in the immediate marathon summit aftermath few details were available on Ireland’s fund share.

The summit chairman, Charles Michel, announced the outcome just before 6am today. “We did it – Europe is strong again,” the former Belgian premier said adding it was “a historic day for Europe.”

But the deal came after days of sometimes bitter debate with two major rows.

In the first row, north European states led by Netherlands, fought to impose tough fund rules and also reduce the number of grants by putting more emphasis on repayable loans.

In the second, EU states wanted to attach human rights clauses on funding for countries like Hungary and Poland.

Compromises saw the grants portion of the rescue package cut from €500bn to €390bn. There was also a clause allowing any member state to object if a funded country did not stick to economic rules – but an investigative process was time-limited to three months.

On the human rights issue, a number of countries constituting “a qualified majority” under EU rules can trigger investigations.

The Taoiseach said the talks outcome was very positive.

"I welcome what is a very substantial and significant package of measures - €1.8 trillion - which I think will go a long way to help to reboot and re-engineer economic recovery within the European Union,” Mr Martin said before jetting back to Dublin.

"It has been a very challenging number of days negotiating this package, but it has been worthwhile," he added.

Ireland originally stood to gain €3bn from the draft aid package announced in late May. This may be enhanced by a €5bn emergency Brexit fund for countries and sectors worst hit by the UK departure, and also by rule changes holding back 30pc of funds until 2021 and 2022 to assess the Covid impact.

A concrete signal

Summit chairman Charles Michel tweeted "Deal" shortly after the 27 leaders finally reached agreement at a 3.15am plenary session.

"This agreement sends a concrete signal that Europe is a force for action," Michel said at a dawn news conference.

"It is about a lot more than money. It is about workers and families, their jobs, their health and their well-being. I believe this agreement will be seen as a pivotal moment in Europe's journey, but it will also launch us into the future."

The deal marks the birth of a new Europe, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told France Info radio on Tuesday.

Le Maire said the deal would result in a Europe with greater solidarity among member nations, more environmentally-friendly policies and a stronger Franco-German relationship at its core.

European Union leaders reached an "historic" deal on a massive stimulus plan for their coronavirus-hit economies at a pre-dawn meeting on Tuesday after a fractious summit that lasted almost five days.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the deal was "truly historic" and that he was convinced the recovery plan and budget could meet the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic.

"This was a summit whose conclusions are truly histroric. We have put in place the capability to borrow collectively, to put in place a collective recovery plan, for the first time," Macron said. "With this recovery plan, we will reach a near doubling of the European budget over the next three years."

Officials said the deal, which came after Michel presented compromises on a €750bn recovery fund, is critical to dispel doubts about the bloc's very future.

Michel proposed that within the €750bn, €390bn should be non-repayable grants, down from €500bn originally proposed, and the rest in repayable loans.

News of the deal saw the Euro rise to a fresh four-month high of $1.1470.

The EU was slow to coordinate its initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic and, already weakened by Britain's departure from the bloc, a united front on economic aid would demonstrate that it can step up to a crisis and stay united.

But the tortuous summit looked like failing at times with Europe split between north and south.

"It's breathtaking to see that we have done it. We have reached a huge milestone setting up the future of the European Union," said European Commission Presidentr Ursula von der Leyen, after almost 100 hours of negotiations.

The summit approached the record length set at a 2000 meeting in the French city of Nice of almost five full days.

European nations have done a better job of containing the coronavirus than the United States after a devastating early few months that hit Italy and Spain particularly hard, collaborating on medical, travel and economic fronts.

The stakes at the summit were high with EU economies in freefall as Europe faces its deepest recession since World War Two, initial relief measures like short-time work schemes running out this summer, and fears that autumn could see deep economic malaise and social discontent.

Diplomats said failure would have risked further damaging a bloc struggling with Brexit and bruised by crises from the financial meltdown to migration feuds, exposing it to more eurosceptic, nationalist and protectionist forces.

Emotions had ran high at a dinner on Sunday as a group of fiscally frugal northern nations led by the Netherlands stood their ground on the level of free grants within a proposed special recovery fund of 750 billion euros overall.

Macron lost patience in the early hours of Monday, banging his fist on the table in frustration at "sterile blockages" by the "frugals", two diplomats said.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also railed against the "frugals", branding them "a group of stingy, egotistic states" that looked at things through the prism of their own interests.

Poland would be a top beneficiary of the recovery package, receiving tens of billions of euros in grants and cheap loans, along with high-debt Mediterranean-rim countries that have taken the brunt of the pandemic in Europe.

But the rhetorical skirmishing faded on Monday, and the leaders homed in on an agreement on the stimulus package and, linked to it, the EU's 2021-2027 common budget of around 1.1 trillion euros.

Online Editors