German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday it is not clear whether EU member states would reach an agreement on a COVID-19 recovery fund and multi-year budget at a summit this week, given that differences remain.
The leaders of EU member nations are scheduled to gather in person on Friday and Saturday to work out a compromise on a multibillion-dollar stimulus package proposed by Germany and France. The debate has been linked to a discussion on the 27-country bloc's long-term budget.
Merkel spoke to reporters alongside visiting Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at Meseberg Castle — the German government's guest house, north of Berlin, where the two held talks. She said positions are still too far apart to make any predictions about how the negotiations will proceed.
Merkel said what is important is the scope of the agreement.
"What we want now, the recovery fund or the next generation EU program, it has to be staggering, something special. Because the task at hand is huge, and therefore the answer has to be big as well," she said.
Italian news reports quoted Conte as saying the EU should offer "solutions, not illusions and fears."
Much of the stimulus money would go to help countries that were hardest hit by the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, and its economic impacts, such as Italy and Spain. Some fiscally conservative EU countries oppose the French-German plan because it would entail borrowing by the bloc as a whole for the first time.