ZAGREB, July 18, 2020 – Most of the EU member states want a deal on the next seven-year budget and a coronavirus recovery plan to be reached on Saturday or Sunday, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told reporters during the EU summit in Brussels on Friday evening.
The leaders of the 27 member states gathered for their first physical meeting after five months to reach an agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework and the plan for a recovery from the consequences of the global coronavirus pandemic.
The meeting started at 10 am on Friday and showed great differences among the member states, as well as the readiness of the majority to compromise.
“As far as I can feel the atmosphere, the majority of colleagues would want a deal to be reached tomorrow or on Sunday,” Plenkovic said during a break in the summit. “Most of the members, including big ones such as Germany and France, are ready to support a compromise,” he added.
Among the major obstacles to reaching a deal on the whole package are efforts by the Netherlands to ensure that approval of national projects and payouts from the recovery fund is decided by all member states unanimously.
Plenkovic said that most of the member states were against this and that the proposal did not make sense. “That would mean that a small country can tell Germany or France ‘we don’t like this in your programme and we wouldn’t want it to pass,'” Plenkovic said, adding that in his opinion this job should be done by the European Commission.
The PM said that any delay of an agreement would only put this whole business on a tight schedule. “For Croatia, it would be ideal if an agreement was reached now so that we can have a clear situation at the start of the work of the new government and that know what we can count on.”
Croatia is trying to secure more than €20 billion in the EU budget and the recovery plan, twice as much as in the first seven years of its membership.
Plenkovic said that his new government, which will be formed next week, wanted to use EU funding for the necessary reforms.
“These seven years ahead of us are crucial for our speedy economic development, transformation, balanced regional development and rural development in all parts of Croatia affected by the problem of depopulation, the problem of job creation,” Plenkovic said.
Summit to resume on Saturday
The first day of the summit ended inconclusively as the Netherlands continued to insist that payouts from the recovery fund be decided unanimously.
European Council President Charles Michel proposed that decisions on the approval of national plans be taken by a qualified majority, while decisions on payouts would be made by the Commission taking into account the opinions of the member states.
Even some countries from the group of nations known as the Frugal Four considered the Dutch position unacceptable.
The Netherlands and the other “frugal” countries also demand that the proposed amount for grants be reduced from €500 billion to at least 300 billion.
After Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte rejected the somewhat modified proposal, Michel adjourned the summit until 11am on Saturday.