LISBON, Portugal (AP) — The leaders of Spain and Portugal pressed Monday for the European Union to clinch a deal by the end of this month on a recovery fund to help its 27 member countries weather the economic fallout from the new coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s crucial that all EU leaders recognize that the month of July has to be the month we get an agreement,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told a joint press conference with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa in Lisbon, Portugal.
Southern European countries are mounting a show of strength as negotiations over how much money they get from the EU, and in what form, comes to a crunch. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is also due in Lisbon, on Tuesday, and in Madrid the following day.
The EU’s executive Commission has drawn up plans for a 750 billion-euro ($849 billion) economic recovery fund made up mostly of grants. The plan has met resistance from EU countries dubbed the “Frugal Four” — Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden —which oppose grants and are reluctant to give money away without strings attached.
EU countries are also currently negotiating the bloc’s 2021-2027 budget.
Costa, the Portuguese prime minister, said COVID-19’s consequences have been “devastating” for EU economies. The fund will help member states with plans for transitioning to a digital economy and developing green energy sources, he said.
EU leaders will try to overcome their differences at the end of next week in Brussels when they meet for their first in-person summit in months.