Coronavirus: France’s Macron to meet Spain, Sweden leaders ahead of EU summit

Macron (L) wearing a protective facemask greets guests flanked by French PM Castex at the end of the annual Bastille Day military ceremony on the Place de la Concorde in Paris, on July 14, 2020. (AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron will meet several European leaders this week ahead of a high-stakes EU summit on coordinating the bloc’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

EU leaders are debating a 750-billion-euro ($850 billion) recovery fund to help governments weather a crisis that threatens to create a wave of bankruptcies and job losses.

The fund would include 500 billion euros of direct grants to the hardest-hit countries, financed by joint borrowing backed by all EU members.

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But countries including the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden are resisting the plan, saying the money should be advanced as loans with tough conditions attached, such as deep economic reforms to cut debt.

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Macron will meet Spanish Premier Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday and Sweden’s Stefan Lofven on Thursday, his office said.

He will then travel to Brussels on Thursday for talks with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, before the summit opens on Friday.

“These meetings underscore the president’s efforts to secure, as soon as this month, an agreement on an EU budget and a very ambitious recovery plan that is essential for an economic recovery,” Macron’s office said.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose support of the plan was seen as crucial in winning over other countries, warned Monday that an agreement at this week’s summit was far from certain.

“The road that we have to tread is still rocky,” she said after meeting Conte in Berlin.

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Last Update: Tuesday, 14 July 2020 KSA 17:30 - GMT 14:30
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