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EU leaders have been forced to extend their summit talks to Sunday after they failed to agree on a stimulus plan to breathe life into economies ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. The Brussels summit had already been stretched into Saturday after a meeting that ran late into Friday evening ended without a deal. French President Emmanuel Macron urged member states to show solidarity at the risk that inaction could “jeopardise the future” of the union.
He described the situation as “a moment of truth and ambition for Europe”.
Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler reported: “Macron says a failure by the EU to unite and help member states at a time of crisis could fuel anti-EU sentiment in the bloc and jeopardise its future.
“But with so many differences and so much at stake, leaders may need even longer to reach a deal.
“Discussions are already fraught, leaders are divided over borrowing such a large sum of money from the financial markets and can’t agree on whether it should be distributed as grants or loans.”
She added: “Some fiscally conservative countries, including the Netherlands, worry about shared debt.
“They prefer loans with conditions rather than grants.”
The EU’s ambitious 750 billion euro recovery package to help those hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic has divided member states for many reasons too.
The design of the plan, mostly made of grants, has sparked fears among the so-called ‘frugal four’ (Austria, The Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark).
Leaders of EU countries held a virtual meeting last month to find a compromise.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the discussions as “positive”, however, there was no breakthrough.
According to her, many leader agree that the “severity of this crisis justifies an ambitious common response”, and that an agreement is needed soon.
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One of the proposals on the table at the summit is to cut funding to countries found breaching rule of law principles.
The EU has been trying for years to get some countries to respect basic rules like media freedom and independence of the judiciary without success.
The system would include new voting measures.
The proposal is facing fierce resistance from Poland and Hungary.
The parliament in Budapest even adopted a resolution this week banning the government from signing up to any rule of law conditions in Brussels.
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