EU leaders reunited
An EU summit has entered its third day today after commencing in person for the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. EU bosses will finally have an excuse for being such frigid negotiators when they meet two meters apart in a hermetically sealed chamber to discuss a recovery package to what is the biggest economic downturn in the bloc’s history.
In the previous instalment of ‘Make the Germans Pay for It’ discussions collapsed without any agreement after leaders failed to plug €75bn funding gap in the budget. This time around it’s more like €750bn that everyone will have to fork out for to revive the European economy.
Leaders will be advised to wear masks and avoid handshakes, backslapping, and that bizarre tradition of greeting someone by kissing the air around their ears. The ‘space egg’ meeting hall will be super-ventilated with deep cleaning between sessions.
Special elbow-activated door handles have been installed in the toilets and a doctor will be present throughout the weekend just in case. Traditionally at an EU summit, it’s the doctor’s job to wheel out Jean-Claude Juncker after polishing off the last of the wine for lunch.
All these new measures will allow leaders to meet face to face again, discussions had previously been carried out via video link. This is probably a welcome change, as EU finance ministers were once stuck in discussions for a marathon 16-hour video call which ended without agreement.
The bureaucracy-by-Zoom was never going to work anyway, as talks often hinge of private meetings in corridors and lobbies between advisers. This was impossible on video call. The Luxembourgish government’s extremely distracting backdrop of a giant picture of a pringles can probably didn’t help either.
Leaders will have to submit any deal they agree for the next 7-year budget to the EU Parliament, while the recovery deal will have to be approved by at least 40 national and regional parliaments. So, this shouldn’t be a problem now that leaders are meeting in person again. Afterall, it’s not as if these negotiations were much of a chore pre-pandemic…