European Union (EU) leaders will meet on Friday in their first face-to-face summit since the coronavirus pandemic, with low expectations of a deal on a 750 billion- euro ($855 billion) post-COVID-19 stimulus package.
The Brussels meeting is due to continue on Saturday but EU leaders may need longer to reach a deal, the BBC reported. While French President Emmanuel Macron described the outcome of the meeting as a "moment of truth" for Europe and the next hours would be decisive, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said "the differences are very very big and I cannot say if we will find a solution this time".
Handing Recovery Fund Important
It would be desirable, she said, but people had to remain realistic. European Council President Charles Michel acknowledged that the talks would be "very difficult", but Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said nobody should lose sight of the big picture - "we're faced with the biggest economic depression since the Second World War".
The main issue for the leaders is how much of the recovery fund will be handed out in grants and how much in loans. They also need to agree on a seven-year budget worth another 1.07 trillion euros.
Hopes of Finding A Solution
Southern states including Italy and Spain want an urgent decision "not weakened by a lesser compromise", according to Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Leaders have been crisscrossing Europe ahead of the summit in a bid to find a solution, said the BBC report.
Visiting Sweden, Spain's Pedro Sanchez warned: "If we delay the response, we delay the recovery and the crisis could get worse." The head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, has also urged the EU27 to move quickly on an "ambitious package", warning that uncertainty remains high on the speed and scale of the economic rebound.