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Weary but relieved, European nations Union leaders finally clinched a deal on an unprecedented 1.8 trillion-euro ($2.1 trillion) budget and coronavirus recovery fund early Tuesday, somehow finding unity after four days and nights of fighting and wrangling over money and power in one of their longest summits ever. European nations

With masks and hygienic gel everywhere at the summit, which was spread over five days, the 27 leaders were constantly reminded of the potent medical and economic threat the virus poses to their continent, and grudgingly committed to a massive aid package for those hit hardest by the pandemic.

To confront the biggest recession in its history, the EU will establish a 750 billion-euro coronavirus fund, partly based on common borrowing, to be sent as loans and grants to the hardest-hit countries. That comes on top of the seven-year, 1 trillion-euro EU budget that leaders had been haggling over for months even before the pandemic.

“This was a summit meeting where I believe the consequences will be historic,” said French President Emmanuel Macron. “It created the possibility of setting up loans together, of setting up a recovery fund in the spirit of solidarity.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “We have laid the financial foundations for the EU for the next seven years and came up with a response to this arguably biggest crisis of the European Union.”

With Macron and Merkel negotiating as the closest of partners, the traditionally powerful Franco-German alliance struggled for days to get the quarreling nations in line.

“The EU as a whole now has a big chance to come out stronger out of the crisis,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “Tonight is a big step toward recovery.”

At first, the grants were to total 500 billion euros, but the so-called “frugal” — five wealthy northern nations led by the Netherlands — wanted a cut in such spending and strict economic reform conditions imposed, and the figure was brought down to 390 billion euros. Read more

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