European Union leaders reached an agreement early Tuesday on a $2.1 trillion budget and coronavirus relief package.
The agreement includes $857 billion in coronavirus funding that will be issued as loans and grants to the hardest-hit countries.
It came after negotiations stretched on for four days and nights, well beyond what was expected. A main sticking point was a divide between a group of five richer countries in the north, including the Netherlands and Austria, that advocated a cut in the original proposal of $572 billion in grants along with stricter spending controls, while others such as Spain and Italy sought to keep such restrictions to a minimum.
The final agreement included a compromise of $446 billion in grants.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the final deal “a good package that safeguards Dutch interests and that will make Europe stronger and more resilient.”
European Council President Charles Michel celebrated the package as a success for all 27 member countries and “the right deal for Europe right now.”
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."
The European Parliament must still give its approval to the agreement.
EU nations have experienced 135,000 deaths from COVID-19, with Italy, France and Spain having among the highest death tolls in the world.
The lockdown orders instituted by many governments to stop the spread of the virus have hurt the EU economy, with economists forecasting an 8.3% contraction this year.