Today, the European Council is meeting to discuss the EU Recovery fund and next EU budget, which are packed up in a big EU recovery package for a post-COVID-19 EU. Even though nobody expects to come to an agreement today, many will very closely observe how will the Member States ‘connect’. Apart from online connections which are key in holding a virtual meeting, the way of how Member States’ interests line up today will be crucial for a success of further negotiations this summer.
There are two main issues with the meeting today. First, the existing divisions among the Member States. Second, the online format.
As many observers notice any breakthrough decision will not be made today, because even by the EU standards the Member States are badly divided on the topic. It is not only the ‘Frugal Four’ that are staunch opponents of the prospect of taking on a joint EU debt, but also countries like Slovakia or Finland need more time and details to embrace the most ambitious EU recovery plan in recent history. Therefore, so far unanswered, difficult questions have to be discussed, including how to pay back the money and whether and what new own resources are to be precisely generated.
Another drawback of the meeting is the fact it takes place online, and therefore as such doesn’t create a room for more informal ‘behind-the-scenes’ negotiations that are a common occurrence and practice at meetings of intergovernmental organizations. As the Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok said in our #Hyb4Europe online event “a deal of such importance and detail is challenging to broker over a video conference format”. This feeling appears to be shared by many other EU leaders who are no newcomers to the EU budget negotiations.
To sum up, many observers argue that today’s meeting can be called a success story not when any breakthrough decisions are made but when at least some agreement on philosophy of the EU recovery plan is reached. What we can expect for sure is the date of their next attempt to strike a deal. Let’s hope the expectations and deliverables that aim at the next European Council are much higher.
More on the topic by GLOBSEC:
Turning the Page on the (Post) Pandemic Debate, 12 June 2020.
Reflection on the Recovery Plan for Europe, 29 May 2020
The Post-COVID-19 Challenges to the European Union, 16 June 2020