European Council President Charles Michel on Friday sought to offer concessions to countries across the EU in plans for the EU’s long-term budget and economic recovery, hoping to bridge differences between national leaders when they meet next week.
Michel, who will chair the first face-to-face meeting of European Union leaders since coronavirus lockdowns were lifted, proposed a smaller 2021-27 budget in a bid to make a mass economic stimulus more palatable to thrifty northern countries.
He proposed a long-term EU budget of 1.074 trillion euros – down from the European Commission’s suggested 1.094 trillion – and a recovery fund of 750 billion euros for pandemic-hammered economies, with two-thirds in grants and a third in loans.
“The COVID-19 crisis presents Europe with a challenge of historic proportions,” Michel said in a statement. “We are slowly exiting the acute health crisis. While utmost vigilance is still required on the sanitary situation, the emphasis is now shifting to mitigating the socio-economic damage.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest big challenge for the 27-nation EU after it struggled with a debt crisis a decade ago, chaotic mass migration, and then the trauma of Brexit.