European Union leaders took a break Monday morning on their fourth day of talks aimed at agreeing on a $2 trillion budget and funding to help member states cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The negotiations, which were originally meant to run only through Saturday, were due to resume Monday afternoon.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the leaders were making progress, and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that while the negotiations have been tough, “we can be very satisfied with today’s result.”
The past few days have been defined by a divide that has pitted five wealthy northern European countries – Austria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden – against southern nations that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus and which have the support of Germany and France.
The northern countries have advocated instituting strict spending controls as part of any deal, while others such as Italy and Spain have sought to minimize such conditions.
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.