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Taoiseach Micheál Martin says EU needs to show it has 'wherewithal' to deal with Covid-19 crisis

The Fianna Fáil leader is in Brussels for a meeting of the European Council today.

Image: European Council/Webcast

TAOSIEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said that the European Union needs to send a strong message that it is able to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic “tellingly and with impact”.

The heads of the EU’s 27 member states – also known as the European Council – are gathering in Brussels today in the first face-to-face meeting since the Covid-19 pandemic hit Europe in March.

Some European leaders wore masks as they arrived at the European Commission building for talks about the EU’s seven-year financial package, and the Recovery Fund in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking to the media upon his arrival at the Europa building, Martin said:

“I think it’s extremely important the European Union collectively has a very strong message to its citizens, that it has the wherewithal to deal with this unprecedented crisis that has been caused by the global pandemic.

And in particular, in the context of the socio-economic upheaval, that Europe responds tellingly, and with impact.
 And I think that is the fundamental purpose of this summit.

Martin said that he was looking forward to working with his European counterparts, as this is his first European Council meeting as Taoiseach.

Among the issues that will be discussed today are the Multi-annual Financial Framework, and the EU’s Recovery Fund for dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.

Martin said he would be looking to maintain the “essentials” of the MFF – citing the Common Agricultural Policy, and said that “a fair and balanced agreement” must be reached in relation to the Recovery Fund.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron said upon his arrival that the European Union was facing a “moment of truth”, as leaders gathered for a summit to negotiate a huge post-coronavirus recovery plan.

“We are going through an unprecedented crisis, on the health but also the social level. We need much more solidarity and ambition,” Macron said.

“It’s our European project which is in play here.”

Recovery package

Tweet by @EU Council Source: EU Council/Twitter

Macron and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel are backing a recovery package made up of a mixture of loans and grants to member states to revive economies shattered by the virus and preventive lockdowns.

 Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte – who is holding out against doling out cash without tough conditions – said:

“Solidarity, yes, from countries that can now free up more in their own budgets to fight the crisis, towards countries that can do less.”

President of the European Council, Charles Michel, pitched his ‘negobox’ proposal: €1.074 billion for the MFF, and €750 billion for the Recovery Fund.

Michel’s draft plan foresees the recovery package made up of €250 billion in loans and €500 billion in grants and subsidies that would not have to be repaid by the recipient member states.

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Michel also proposed a €5 billion Brexit reserve as part of the MFF, which would counter the unforeseen consequences in the most-affected member states and sectors.

- with reporting from AFP

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