Coronavirus: EU leaders extend talks on unprecedented virus recovery fund | Politics News

Marathon talks among EU leaders to agree an unprecedented £1.68tn budget and coronavirus recovery fund have been extended into a third day.

The bitter negotiations have underscored the deep divides within the 27-nation bloc, with the traditional Franco-German alliance struggling to get its way.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the discussions could still end without a deal.

A general view of the start of the European Union Council in Brussels on July 17, 2020, as the leaders of the European Union hold their first face-to-face summit over a post-virus economic rescue plan. - The EU has been plunged into a historic economic crunch by the coronavirus crisis, and EU officials have drawn up plans for a huge stimulus package to lead their countries out of lockdown. (Photo by FRANCOIS LENOIR / POOL / AFP) (Photo by FRANCOIS LENOIR/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
The EU27 leaders are meeting in Brussels

“Whether there will be a solution, I still can’t say,” she said, as she arrived early for the extra day of talks at what had been planned as a two-day summit in Brussels.

“There is a lot of goodwill, but there are also a lot of positions. So I will join in working for it. But there may also be no result today.”

Mrs Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron walked out of heated talks late on Saturday, with a group of nations led by the Netherlands pushing to limit the amount of grants given to countries whose economies have been hardest hit by COVID-19 and to impose strict conditions on how the money is spent.

“They run off in a bad mood,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in the early hours of Sunday after Mrs Merkel and Mr Macron’s departure from talks.

“The fact that we continue talking shows we all have optimism.”

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 06: A man, wearing a protective face mask, walks past a shuttered barber shop on May 06, 2020 in Milan, Italy. Italy was the first country to impose a nationwide lockdown to stem the transmission of the Coronavirus (Covid-19), and its restaurants, theaters and many other businesses remain closed. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
The EU has been thrown into its worst-ever recession

Mr Rutte is widely seen as the leader of the nations known as the Frugal Four – the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden.

Mr Macron and Mrs Merkel met deep into the night with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the leader of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

On Sunday morning, they continued their talks along with summit host Charles Michel before the negotiations with all leaders restarted.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said he will not agree to a proposed mechanism to freeze EU money for countries violating the rule of law.

“The positions are getting closer but not enough yet,” he said on Sunday.

European Union Euro Currency banknotes with Europe map
At stake is a £1.68tn budget for EU countries

The urgency of the talks is underscored by coronavirus pitching the EU into its worst recession ever and killing around 135,000 of its citizens.

The EU executive has proposed a £682bn fund, partly based on common borrowing, to be sent as loans and grants to the most needy countries.

All nations agree they need to help but the four richer nations in the north, led by the Netherlands, want strict controls on spending, while struggling southern nations such as Spain and Italy say conditions should be kept to a minimum.

Sky News