EU leaders have finally reached a deal on a huge post-COVID economic recovery package following a fourth night of talks.
The historic agreement on a €750 billion coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic recovery fund and long-term spending plans was reached following days of drawn-out debate.
The summit began in Brussels on Friday morning and saw more than 90 hours of talks.
It became the EU’s longest summit since a 2000 meeting in the French city of Nice, which lasted for five days, and as the meeting reached its fifth day, the 27 exhausted heads of state and government finally gave their seal of approval to a plan for the EU to jointly borrow debt to be disbursed through grants on an unprecedented scale.
The deal was sealed by EU President Charles Michel with a simple one-word Tweet in the early hours of this morning.
Tempers were said to have often frayed over the course of the long weekend of negotiation talks.
The agreement is the biggest joint-borrowing ever agreed by the EU and finally came after member states were largely split between those hit hardest by the outbreak and keen to revive their economies, and those more concerned about the costs of the recovery plan.
Summit chairman Charles Michel said it was a “pivotal moment” for Europe.
The deal centres on a €390 billion programme of grants to member states hardest hit by the pandemic – of which Italy and Spain are expected to be the main recipients – and a further €360 billion in low-interest loans will be available to members of the bloc.
It has been agreed that the European Commission will borrow the €750 billion on international markets and distribute the aid, and there will also be a means by which member states can reject a spending plan in the future.
The deal was reached alongside agreement on the bloc’s next seven-year budget, which is said to be worth about €1.1 trillion.
The agreed recovery package will now face more technical negotiations by member states, and will need ratification by the European Parliament.
This is to be conducted in due course.