Newspaper: EU leaders undecided on rescue plan

EU Council President Presents Compromise Agreement Reducing COVID Recovery Grants to 450 Bln Euros

No deal in sight; EU leaders haggle over budget, virus fund

President of the European Council Charles Michel (L), Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (C), France's President Emmanuel Macron (2nd R) and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen pose during a meeting at the first face-to-face EU summit since the coronavirus disease outbreak. And there will be more that no doubt will still be hard.

On Saturday night, Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel walked out of a meeting with Rutte and other "frugal block" leaders.

Overall, spirits had picked up since the talks reached rock bottom Sunday night.

Kurz and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte are among the leaders of four "frugal" nations, also including Sweden and Denmark, that want conditions such as economic reforms attached to European Union handouts to help countries recover from the hammer blow of the coronavirus and checks on how the money is being spent. He came under criticism from Macron, Italy and Hungary, whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban asked why the Dutchman had such "hate" toward him.

Rutte took it in stride.

Mr Rutte took it in stride, saying: "We are not here because we are going to be visitors at each other's birthday party later". We are here because we do business for our own country.

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Many Belgians say their country invented fries, and that it was only because USA troops stationed in the French-speaking part of Belgium during World War One mistakenly called them "French" that the name stuck.

The differences were so great that Sunday's resumption of talks by all 27 leaders together was pushed back several hours as small groups worked on new compromise proposals. The text of the behind-closed-doors speech was obtained by The Associated Press.

"I think it is still possible, but these compromises, I say very clearly, will not be made at the cost of European ambition", he said.

The 27-nation bloc's economy is estimated to contract 8.3% this year, according to the latest predictions.

The marathon talks chaired by EU Council President Charles Michel have failed to yield agreement over the size and rules for a $860-billion (750-billion-euro) package of loans and grants to help drag Europe out of a recession caused by the pandemic.

Tempers flared in the conference room on Monday as frustration boiled over after a full weekend of haggling, with French President Emmanuel Macron upbraiding the Dutch and Austrian leaders and threatening a walkout.

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Within the 750 billion euro recovery fund, 390 billion euros could be considered as non-repayable grants, diplomats said, a compromise between the 350 billion level of the five "frugals" and the 400 billion euros demanded by France and Germany.

Asked on Monday if he minded the "Mr No" epithet, Rutte replied that he "wouldn't let himself be distracted by background noise", adding that he was working for Dutch interest, "which are clearly linked to a European interest".

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said that negotiations were at a "delicate moment" but that Spain still expected that an agreement would be reached. "From this point of view, there can be no more fooling around", he said.

"We do not reject conditionality, and we do not reject that there is good governance that offers trust", she said. "We need a basis that gives confidence to us and to our partners". He has always been known as a European bridge builder, but this weekend his tough negotiating stance is being blamed for holding up a deal. He and his allies are pushing for labor market and pension reforms to be linked to European Union handouts and a "brake" enabling European Union nations to monitor and, if necessary, halt projects that are being paid for by the recovery fund.

"We are not there yet, things can still fall apart".

The so-called "Rule of Law" measure, also opposed by Poland and Slovenia, could see Orban's nationalist and increasingly authoritarian government lose out if fellow members judge his alleged assault on the free media and democratic norms breaks with European values.

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