Leaders of European Union (EU) states, though under mounting pressure to prop up their virus-stricken economies, failed to nail down a much-awaited recovery plan at a video-summit on Thursday.
“No consensus is reached today. But it is an answer that we will have to provide, and I believe that our Europe has no future if we can not provide this answer,” French President Emmanuel Macron said following the summit. “If we let part of Europe fall, all of Europe will fall with it.”
Macron revealed that disagreements over the size and shape of the rescue package remained.
“NEEDED AND URGENT”
In previous video-summits on the pandemic, one of the sticking points is the so-called “European recovery bond” promoted by Italy and seven other eurozone states, but not favored by some others. Italy wanted the bond to lift member states out of a recession and increase spending on healthcare.
Macron said that the EU must provide budgetary transfers and not just loans to its worst-hit regions and sectors to help restart the economy.
“At the moment we are living through, these transfers must be transfers by subsidies, real budgetary transfers,” said Macron.
Nevertheless, leaders of the 27-bloc agreed that a recovery fund is “needed and urgent,” said President of the European Council Charles Michel in his conclusions on the meeting. But no specific amount of the fund was unveiled.
Michel said the recovery fund “shall be of a sufficient magnitude, targeted towards the sectors and geographical parts of Europe most affected, and be dedicated to dealing with this unprecedented crisis.”
As a result of the video-summit, leaders tasked the European Commission to “analyze the exact needs and to urgently come up with a proposal that is commensurate with the challenge we are facing.”
They also mandated the European Commission to link the recovery fund with the bloc’s 2021-2027 budget.
Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, said the EU’s executive arm would start working on the details.
“MOVING ON THIN ICE”
Ahead of the video summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned in her speech in the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, that the numbers of new cases of COVID-19 and recoveries in her country were only a “fragile interim success.”
“We are not living in the final phase of the pandemic, but are still at its beginning,” said Merkel. “We are moving on thin ice.”
The EU video summit, the fourth of its kind, came as 1,130,393 Europeans have contracted the coronavirus and over 110,000 of them have died, according to the latest data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
As of 10:00 CET on Thursday, the five European countries reporting most cases are Spain (208,389), Italy (187,327), Germany (148,046), United Kingdom (133,495) and France (119,151), showed the ECDC data.
The five countries reporting most deaths are Italy (25,085), Spain (21,717), France (21,340), United Kingdom (18,100) and Belgium (6,262).
Of the total deaths across Europe, up to half occurred in long-term care facilities, said Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Europe, at a weekly press conference broadcast online from Copenhagen. It’s an “unimaginable human tragedy,” he said.
MORE SIGNS OF TURNING A CORNER
To many’s relief, Thursday saw more signs of Europe’s hardest-hit nations turning a corner.
In Italy, the daily number of recovered COVID-19 patients surpassed new infections for the first time since the pandemic began in the country’s northern region late February, according to the latest official tally.
In France, the number of hospitalized patients fell for the 15th consecutive day, to 29,219. The number of patients in intensive care dropped to 5,053.
In Belgium, 993 patients are being treated in intensive care units (ICUs), 27 fewer than the previous day. The numbers of both hospital admissions and new deaths are falling.
In Spain, Health Minister Salvador Illa said the rate of contagion in the country” is remaining steady at around 2 percent.”
“We are achieving the objectives of slowing down the spread of infection, but we are continuing with confinement,” said the minister. Enditem