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European leaders fail to reach consensus on recovery plan

Brussels, April 24 (IANS) European Union (EU) leaders, under mounting pressure to prop up their virus-stricken economies, have failed to reach a consensus on a much-awaited recovery plan.

“No consensus is reached today. But it is an answer that we will have to provide, and I believe that our Europe has no future if we can not provide this answer,” French President Emmanuel Macron said following the video-summit on Thursday.

“If we let part of Europe fall, all of Europe will fall with it.”

Macron revealed that disagreements over the size and shape of the rescue package remained, reports Xinhua news agency.

In previous video-summits on the pandemic, one of the sticking points is the so-called “European recovery bond” promoted by Italy and seven other eurozone states, but not favoured by some others.

Italy wanted the bond to lift member states out of a recession and increase spending on healthcare.

Macron said that the EU must provide budgetary transfers and not just loans to its worst-hit regions and sectors to help restart the economy.

“At the moment we are living through, these transfers must be transfers by subsidies, real budgetary transfers,” said Macron.

Nevertheless, leaders of the 27-bloc agreed that a recovery fund was “needed and urgent”, said President of the European Council Charles Michel.

But no specific amount of the fund was unveiled.

Michel said the recovery fund “shall be of a sufficient magnitude, targeted towards the sectors and geographical parts of Europe most affected, and be dedicated to dealing with this unprecedented crisis”.

As a result of the video-summit, leaders tasked the European Commission to “analyze the exact needs and to urgently come up with a proposal that is commensurate with the challenge we are facing”.

They also mandated the European Commission to link the recovery fund with the bloc’s 2021-2027 budget.

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, said the EU’s executive arm would start working on the details.

Ahead of the video summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned in her speech in the Bundestag, the lower house of Parliament, that the numbers of new cases of COVID-19 and recoveries in her country were only a “fragile interim success”.

“We are not living in the final phase of the pandemic, but are still at its beginning,” said Merkel. “We are moving on thin ice.”

The EU video summit, the fourth of its kind, came as 1,130,393 Europeans have contracted the coronavirus and over 110,000 of them have died, according to the latest data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

As of Thursday, the European countries reporting most cases are Spain (213,024), Italy (189,973), France (159,460) and Germany (153,129).

The countries reporting most deaths are Italy (25,549), Spain (22,157), and France (21,856).

–IANS

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