Dutch hold ground on €1 trillion EU budget by demanding unanimity on spending plans

EU leaders were held back from sealing the deal earlier by Dutch PM Mark Rutte, who wants all EU countries to unanimously approve the disbursement of any recovery funds

Dutch PM Mark Rutte and Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela
Dutch PM Mark Rutte and Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela

No clear outcome has emerged from the European Council, where EU leaders are still trying to reach a deal over a €1 trillion financial package for its next seven-year budget. 

The budget includes coronavirus recovery funds which however, are being held back by the Netherlands and so-called ‘frugal’ EU states who are anxious about how the money will be spent by worse-off economic performers. 

In comments to the national broadcaster, Robert Abela said Malta had been after a satisfactory package despite Malta’s positive economic performance in the past year militating against obtaining a higher MFF package than the last seven-year deal. 

The proposed €1.82 trillion plan is comprised of a €750 billion recovery initiative and a core budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework, of €1.074 trillion.  

EU leaders were held back from sealing the deal earlier in the weekend by Dutch PM Mark Rutte, who stood his ground by insisting that all EU countries should unanimously approve the disbursement of any recovery funds. 

Rutte said he was prepared to single-handedly stop a deal if necessary. “I’m not aiming for that,” he said. “But we have a number of opinions and if you always think ‘it has to stay cozy’ then you’re not fighting for the things you believe in.” 

Rutte rejected a compromise proposal put forward by European Council President Charles Michel, and demanded at least €200 billion in cuts to the proposed €500 billion recovery grants program – which is over and above the Multi-Annual Financial Framework funds. 

On the other end of the spectrum was Italy, one of the worst-hit countries by the COVID-19 pandemic, which was in favour of a more relaxed governance mechanism. 

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša tweeted that “the EU is once again showing itself in all its complexity of differences, smallness and greatness, selfishness and solidarity.” The summit is a “perseverance test,” he added. 

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