EU leaders have managed to reach an agreement on a €750bn package that will provide a post-COVID stimulus to member states. It took 100 hours of negotiation as northern member states – the “fiscal frugals” resisted some of the largesse on grants for countries most affected. Poland will be a biggest beneficiary of the recovery package, receiving tens of billions of euros in grants and cheap loans, along with high-debt Mediterranean-rim countries that have suffered the worst of the pandemic.
It seems the deal will have the support of many EU citizens. A recent survey commissioned by the European Parliament, found Europeans are longing for greater solidarity within the trade bloc, with over half of respondents believing EU should have more financial means to overcome the impact of COVID-19.
The survey indicates that citizens across Europe wants more solidarity between member states, with around 53% of respondents saying they are not satisfied with the solidarity shown between EU member states during the pandemic. Out of the 56% of respondents who want the EU to have greater financial means, there is an absolute majority who agree in 15 EU member states: among them Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Portugal. Public health tops the priority list among the policy fields the larger budget should be spent, not surprisingly given the COVID-19 pandemic remains front and centre. Speaking about the survey results, European Parliament president David Sassoli said the survey expressed a greater need for a larger EU budget to tackle the unprecedented impact the pandemic has had on the bloc’s economy and societies.
The deal must still be ratified by the European Parliament, but the agreement itself is an important message to Euro-skeptics, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel observed in a press conference. “This is an important signal beyond Europe’s borders that the EU, even with all the [EU member states’] varying backgrounds, is able to take action,” she said.
In general, European nations have done a better job at containing COVID-19 than the US and even the soon to be ex-member state the UK. Collaboration on medical travel and economic fronts followed early outbreaks in Italy and Spain. It is hoped this historic stimulus will strengthen and consolidate the 27-member EU bloc.