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EU officials and MEPs are locked in talks over the €1.8trillion budget package for the next seven years, which includes the unprecedented bailout agreed by leaders in July. They have failed to make any progress as both sides wrangle over the exact size of the 2021-2027 budget and the pandemic recovery fund. With more economic turmoil expected as infections and deaths soar across Europe, some insiders fear the row will see the first payments delayed beyond January.
Under the plans agreed by EU leaders in the summer, the bloc would borrow €750billion on international markets to pay for grants and low-cost loans for pandemic-ravaged regions and industries.
The package, which was considered a major step towards a “United States of Europe”, was paired with the next Multiannual Financial Framework, worth some €1trillion.
A senior EU diplomat accused the European Parliament of not “speaking with one voice” as the Continent is gripped by fresh lockdowns.
“We are quite concerned,” the source told the FT, adding any agreement signed after mid-November would end in a disastrous delay.
“The result is a probable delay to the first payments from the recovery fund – which was 10 percent early payment from the ReactEU facility.
“This could have started on January 1, but this will not happen now.”
One of the main stumbling blocks in the talks is the rule of law mechanism, which ensures funds are withheld from EU rule-breakers.
The Parliament has called for tough measures to be taken against countries that threaten the budget by ignoring the bloc’s democratic and judicial values.
MEPs are also pushing for an extra €39billion to be added to the long-term budget to help fund fresh spending on research, science and student exchange programmes.
Germany, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, offered just €10billion to break the deadlock.
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Green MEP Rasmus Andersen said: “The Council has to move closer to the €39billion proposal.”
He claimed the Parliament “has compromised a lot and are willing to do so again. We are still fighting for each billion for health, youth, research and human aid”.
And French MEP Pierre Larrouturou has even gone on hunger strike in a bid to convince EU leaders to sanction extra spending.
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He said: “To put pressure on Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, together with citizens, I have started a hunger strike at the European Parliament.
“My aim is not to die but to avoid millions of deaths: Europe must have proper funding to act for climate, health and jobs.”
The EU’s failure to agree has conceded with tumbling stock markets as the likes of France and Germany impose new economic shut downs to curb the spread of coronavirus.
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