Von der Leyen calls mini-summit to push for a deal on recovery plan

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen during a college meeting. [European Union]

European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen called on Thursday (2 July) a mini-summit for next week with her counterparts at the Council, Parliament and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to work towards a deal on the EU recovery package.

“Strong political leadership will be required to bring this work to a rapid and successful conclusion. Close coordination between the institutions and full involvement of the European Parliament are of paramount importance. Coming to an agreement swiftly is crucial,” von der Leyen said in a statement calling for the meeting on 8 July. 

The Commission chief will be joined by the presidents of the European Council and Parliament, Charles Michel and David Sassoli, as well as Merkel in her capacity as the chairwoman of the rotating presidency of the Council, now in Germany’s hands. 

The Chancellor will be in Brussels to present the Germany presidency agenda at the European Parliament that same day.

EU leaders are meeting on 17 and 18 July to discuss for the first time in person since the pandemic began the Commission’s proposal for a recovery package, including a €1.1 trillion long-term budget and a €750 billion worth temporary instrument aimed at tackling the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The aim of von der Leyen’s reunion is to take stock of the ongoing negotiations and build political impetus to make sure the EU27 close the deal later this month. Von der Leyen called the meeting on the basis of Article 324 of the Treaty that sets out the need for regular meetings between all presidents in the context of the budget negotiations, “to promote consultation and the reconciliation of the positions of the institutions.”

EU agreement on recovery plan by July 'very difficult', officials warn

It will be “very difficult” to reach an agreement on the recovery fund and the EU’s overall seven-year budget by July, as intended, given the disagreements over the size, the distribution of the stimulus and the attached conditions, EU officials and national diplomats acknowledged on Wednesday (10 June).

Contacts between the institutions, with EU leaders and among the leaders themselves have recently intensified. Michel has been in contact with almost all leaders over the past few days to work out a new negotiating box based on the Commission proposal and iron out the differences at the Council table. 

Member states are highly divided on the matter, from the size of the instruments to the way the money should be channelled into the real economy. Michel expects to have a very clear picture of the different positions to put together a draft by the end of this week, according to EU sources. 

Von der Leyen has been doing her homework as well. She met last week with the conference of presidents, who represent the leaders of all political groups at the European Parliament. Unanimity at the Council is required for an agreement, but EU lawmakers have to give their consent as well. 

Germany took over the presidency of the Council on 1 July and all hopes are pinned on Merkel’s leadership to find an agreement on the recovery instrument, which she herself has made a priority.

On Monday (29 June), the Chancellor met French President Emmanuel Macron in Meseberg to come up with a common stand on the matter ahead of the summit.

The two agreed on the need to come up with “a strong instrument” that can really help the countries hit hard by the crisis and warned that solidarity is also in the interest of other countries, in a reference to the so-called ‘Frugal Four’ – Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden- who have been reluctant to back the recovery plan.

Time is of the essence and Merkel has vowed to finalise the deal before the summer break. Von der Leyen also said that “it is our joint responsibility to finalise this recovery package without delay, and show to all Europeans that the Union is ready to act for the benefit of all”. 

The two are meeting on Thursday to kick start the German presidency, whose agenda has been very much shaped by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, including on the economy. 

No consent to ‘historic’ recovery plan without new revenues, MEPs warn

The European Parliament will only give its consent to a new EU long-term budget if the basket of own resources is increased to pay for the recovery fund, the main political groups warned in a letter addressed to EU leaders ahead of Friday’s (19 June) summit. 

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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