EU summit: is a deal at all possible?

The EU summit on the coronavirus recovery package has entered its fourth day after negotiations running into the early hours of Monday morning failed to produce an agreement. EU diplomats have, however, emphasised that the member states are moving closer to a deal. Europe's press sees little evidence of progress and examines why the decision-making process is so difficult.

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Lost in EUrope (DE) /

Hopelessly divided

So far only the "Frugal Four" have emerged as winners, Eric Bonse sums up on his blog Lost in EUrope:

“They showed Chancellor Merkel and summit host Michel how things stood and plucked away at the planned 750 billion-euro coronavirus aid programme. That might still have been manageable if the summit dispute hadn't once again revealed deep rifts. It's no longer just the North against the South and the East against the West. There was also a revolt against the Franco-German tandem, and jealousy over coronavirus aid and reduced contributions. This 'Union' is hopelessly divided. Not even the fundamental values of democracy and the rule of law can be taken for granted.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Listen instead of scolding

Portraying the opponents of debt mutualisation as egoists and nationalists won't help Italy's cause, warns Corriere della Sera:

“Three of the five thrifty countries that came to the fore at the European summit are led by social democrats: Sweden with Stefan Löfven, Denmark and Finland with two young women (Mette Fredriksen and Sanna Marin) who were previously considered the pride of the European left. Perhaps it would be appropriate for our leadership to engage with these representatives of a tradition that honours social democracy. It may be that all three have been infected by the virus of social insensitivity and lack of charity. But it could also be that they have concerns about the economic conduct of our country which deserve to be heard.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

All or nothing for the EU

The EU is tearing itself apart, the Süddeutsche Zeitung notes with horror:

“The resurrection project of the rescue fund is turning into a 'Dies irae' - a day of anger over different and irreconcilable models of government and life in Europe. This is a tragedy because it highlights the impotence of the unusual alliance between Germany and France. Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron pressed ahead in the hope that they could create a positive dynamic for the EU. But what they have got is a narrow-minded distribution struggle and the message that a sense of community can't be bought with money. If the multi-billion-dollar project does not succeed, the EU will have to seriously reconsider its raison d'être.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Rutte playing the nationalism card

The Dutch prime minister is too driven by electoral considerations, De Volkskrant believes:

“Of course it's important that the southern countries reform to make their economies strong and sustainable. But imposing overly stringent demands for reform can also stifle an economy, as Greece experienced in recent years. Moreover, the lecturing of the Dutch is perceived as presumptuous, precisely because the Netherlands, with its open export economy, benefits from the EU. ... The message of the usefulness and necessity of the European Union is being conveyed too little to the Dutch voter. ... You can win the support of voters [in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in March 2021] not just with a nationalist 'no' but also by showing them a clear, realistic vision of the future.”

El País (ES) /

Abolish the unanimity principle

The difficulties with EU decision-making are not to the individual countries but to a flaw in the system, El País stresses:

“The fact that The Hague has now taken over London's role as the blocker of joint projects makes it clear that the EU's decision-making problem is not focused in this or that capital city: there will always be someone who takes on the role of the free rider. The problem is that the unanimity rule that applies for the budget needs to be completely eliminated because it leads to vetoes, blackmail and unfair compensation. The United States set a good example by introducing an absolute majority including for votes on constitutional amendments. A century and a half ago.”