EU Summit’s ‘Historic’ Budget Pleases Central, South-East Europe Leaders

European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel at a press conference after the European summit in Brussels. Photo: EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ/POOL.

After four days of difficult discussions at the first in-person EU summit since the coronavirus outbreak, leaders of member states managed to agree on Tuesday morning on the bloc’s budget for 2021-2027 and on a 750-billion-euro coronavirus recovery fund.

“We negotiated four long days and nights, more than 90 hours, but it was worth it,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Leaders from central and south-east European EU member states also expressed satisfaction.

“We showed what I said the day before yesterday – that we must show political maturity, send the right messages to our fellow citizens, all member states, investors, financial markets, and even the whole world,” said Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.

A total of 22 billion euros of the budget money and recovery fund cash will go to Croatia, which Plenkovic called an “unprecedented achievement”, stating that it was more than double the amount Croatia has received in seven years of membership.

In total, the agreed package adds up to 1.82 trillion euros – 1.074 trillion euros for the seven-year EU budget, while the pandemic aid fund named ‘Next Generation EU’ accounts for 750 billion euros, which will be made up of 390 billion euros in grants and 360 billion euros in loans.

Initially, the plan was to allocate 500 billion euros in non-repayable grants and 250 billion in loans, but the so-called ‘frugal four’ – Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark and Austria – wanted less money to be handed out in grants.

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa said that he was pleased with the outcome of the talks and that his country’s share of the money, 10.5 billion euros, was also the most it has ever got.

“After the outbreak of the pandemic, one sometimes gave up on the EU. We are all happy that bright moments have come,” Jansa said.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov announced that his country will receive nearly 29 billion euros in European funds in the coming years.

“Bulgaria took over one billion more. Everyone said that it was deserved, everyone said that our [six-month rotating] presidency [of the EU in 2018] was an example,” Borissov said.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis described the final deal “a beautiful result” both for Romania and the EU. He called the 79.9 billion euro that his country will receive “an impressive figure”.

All Visegrad Group states’ leaders – from Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – also expressed their satisfaction with the agreement.

Poland and Hungary had presented a common front to avoid an agreement which made respect for the rule of law – which both have been repeatedly accused of undermining by Brussels – a condition for receiving the funds.

“I’m happy to say we overcame the crises that threatened the EU,” Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

He added that in the proposed deal, the funds are not directly conditioned with rule-of-law considerations. The final agreement states that the EU Council “underlines the importance of the respect of the rule of law”.

Morawiecki also said that the deal has a provision for the creation of a mechanism deal with the rule of law which “will be subject to the validation of the European Council”.

His Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orban, criticised the attempts to “educate” Poland and Hungary “about our rule of law” and welcomed the outcome of the summit.

“We didn’t just manage to get a big package of money but we defended the pride of our nations,” Orban said.

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