EU Reaches COVID-19 Recovery Deal After Fractious Summit

EU Reaches COVID-19 Recovery Deal After Fractious Summit

European Union leaders clinched a historic deal on a massive stimulus plan for their coronavirus-throttled economies in the early hours of yesterday, after a fractious summit lasting almost five days.

The agreement will pave the way for the European Commission, the EU’s executive, to raise billions of euros on capital markets on behalf of all 27 states, an unprecedented act of solidarity in almost seven decades of European integration.

Summit chairman Charles Michel called the accord, reached at a 5.15 a.m. (0315 GMT), a pivotal moment for Europe. Many had warned that a failed summit amid the coronavirus pandemic would have put the bloc’s viability in serious doubt after years of economic crisis and Britain’s recent departure.

World shares climbed to their highest since February and the euro briefly hit its strongest since March on news of the deal.

“This agreement sends a concrete signal that Europe is a force for action,” a jubilant Michel told reporters.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who spearheaded a push for the deal with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, hailed it as truly historic.

Leaders hope the 750 billion euro ($857.33 billion) recovery fund and its related 1.1 trillion euro 2021-2027 budget will help repair the continent’s deepest recession since World War Two after the coronavirus outbreak shut down economies.

Germany Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said that, with the agreement, the chances of “a cautious, slow recovery” in the second half of this year had increased enormously.

While strong in symbolism, the deal came at the cost of cuts to proposed investment in climate-friendly funds and did not set conditions for disbursements to countries, such as Hungary and Poland, seen as breaching democratic values.

In an unwieldy club of 27, each with veto power, the summit also exposed faultlines across the bloc that are likely to hinder future decision-making on money as richer northern countries resisted helping out the poorer south.

The Netherlands led a group of so-called frugal states with Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, insisting that aid to Italy, Spain and other Mediterranean countries that took the brunt of the pandemic should be mainly in loans, not in non-repayable grants.

“There were a few clashes, but that’s all part of the game,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, describing a warm relationship with his Italian counterpart, Giuseppe Conte.

But Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the frugals’ negotiating power was here to stay, suggesting Europe’s traditional Franco-German engine will be challenged.

Sudan’s Ex-Leader, Al-Bashir On Trial Over 1989 Coup

Sudan’s former President Omar al-Bashir, who was overthrown, last year by the military in the face of mass protests against his rule, has gone on trial in the capital over his role in a coup that brought him to power more than 30 years ago.

Al-Bashir, who has been jailed in Khartoum since his removal, faces charges of undermining the constitution, violating the Armed Forces Act and fomenting a coup in 1989 against the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.

Before any statements or evidence could be given on Tuesday, the trial was adjourned until August 11 to reconvene in a bigger court to allow more lawyers and family members of defendants to attend. Some lawyers had complained their colleagues had not been able to get into Tuesday’s session.

Other defendants include 10 military personnel and six civilians, including his former vice presidents, Ali Osman Taha and Bakri Hassan Saleh, as well as former ministers and governors.

They are all accused of having plotted the June 30, 1989, coup during which the army arrested Sudan’s political leaders, suspended Parliament and other state bodies, closed the airport and announced the putsch on the radio.

The man dubbed the true brain behind the military coup, Hassan al-Turabi of the National Islamic Front, died in 2016.

Al-Bashir stayed in power for almost 30 years before being overthrown on April 11 last year after several months of unprecedented, pro-democracy demonstrations that eventually forced the creation of a joint civilian-military ruling “sovereign council”.

The 76-year-old is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), facing charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities committed by pro-government forces in Darfur. Sudan’s new governing authorities, which are tasked with leading the country to elections under a 39-month power-sharing agreement; have yet to hand him over to the ICC for prosecution.

Al-Bashir is also being investigated over the killing of protesters while, in December, a Sudanese court handed him a first, two-year sentence on corruption charges.

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