European Union members gathered in Brussels Thursday for an ambitious summit that includes solving an impasse regarding a $2.1 trillion budget and COVID-19 pandemic relief, as well as setting new CO2 admissions standards to fight climate change.
The leaders of the 27 EU member states will also discuss COVID-19 vaccines, resetting relations with Washington and sanctions on Turkey for drilling in contested waters in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Getting all member states behind the budget and recovery plan is the first priority. Poland and Hungary blocked the financial package because access to the money is, for the first time, to be linked to respecting the rule of law. Both nations are the subjects of EU investigations for undermining the independence of the courts and the media and risk losing billions from the EU.
But Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the bloc until the end of the year, struck a deal with the two countries that will allow them to lift their veto.
As she entered the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters she and her staff had been working very hard to find a solution that meets the concerns of Hungary and Poland “while maintaining the conditionality and the rule of law as we negotiated it with the European Parliament."
Another tough debate among EU members is a proposal for steeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The new proposal calls for a 55% reduction by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, rather than the currently agreed goal of 40%. Poland is among the eastern European nations opposing the new goals.
Ongoing Brexit negotiations are also on the agenda for the two-day meeting.