The EU‘s summit on its coronavirus response has reached its fourth day – having meant to conclude on Saturday – as leaders continue to debate the bloc’s economic package for the pandemic. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday: “After three days and three nights of negotiation marathon, we’re entering now in the crucial phase but I have the impression that European leaders really want an agreement. “I’m positive for today, we’re not there yet but things are moving in the right direction.”
However, the talks which have focussed on a proposed £1.5trillion coronavirus recovery fund has seen division rear its head.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has provided the strongest opposition to the plans on the table — said to be insisting on a cap of £316billion worth of grants — preferring loans of strict conditions.
The recovery fund had originally set £450billion to be handed out as grants and £226billion in loans.
As tempers flared during the small hours, French President Emmanuel Macron banged his fist on the table, saying he was ready to walk out if “sterile blockages” continued.
The row is reminiscent of a dispute over an EU tax policy in 2017.
As some heads of state tried to push through a tax increase on tech giants, 10 countries resisted the proposal.
Mr Macron told a news conference at the time that the tax plan was supported by 19 countries, “which shows how much momentum there is”.
Supporters of the new tax system argued that tech giants had used low-tax regimes to cut out billions of euros that they should have paid in the EU.
Then Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker confidently said: “I do think we will have an agreement.”
“I don’t want a Europe where it’s one against the other.”
Some leaders showed their impatience with the sharp divide between member states.
Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said: “Countries that want to cooperate, that want a common tax for digital companies.
“We can’t be held back by countries that want to move more slowly.”