European Council President Charles Michel will not even try to get EU leaders to agree on a joint statement during a videoconference meeting on Thursday, senior officials said.
Facing a potentially divisive debate over how to finance the economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis, Michel will instead issue a presidential statement that does not require the unanimity of the 27 heads of state and government. It requires only his own stamp of approval.
“We don’t think this is the time for a drafting session in the European Council,” a senior EU official said Wednesday.
Because the videoconference of EU leaders does not qualify as a formal meeting of the European Council, it is not possible to issue legally binding conclusions like the formal joint statements issued after traditional summits. Those conclusions typically require extensive negotiations, which begin long before the leaders gather in Brussels and continue during the summit — sometimes through the night.
The most recent videoconference was nearly upended when Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte threatened to block an informal joint statement over a dispute over the proposal for a joint debt instrument known as “corona bonds” to help finance the recovery.
This time, leaders are due to discuss a proposal for a large recovery fund, potentially financed through the EU’s long-term budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework. And Michel seems unwilling to risk further division by trying to accomplish an informal joint statement that in any case would not have force of law.
“These videoconferences are different than a Council and it is extremely difficult when you enter in some sort of a draft to make things work,” the official said.
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