At the end of the negotiations, the 27 EU Member States agreed on a new multiannual financial framework (MFF) for the period from 2021 to 2027 worth 1.8 trillion euro. Between 2021 and 2023, 750 billion of this is to be made available for a recovery fund for overcoming the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Three hundred and ninety billion euro will be provided as grants and 360 billion euro as loans.

Not just the outcome, but also the duration of the summit are set to write European history: it is the second longest negotiating marathon in the history of the EU, with only the Nice Summit in 2000 having lasted a few minutes longer.

Welcome to the Special European Council
© European Union

When the 27 Heads of State and Government arrive in Brussels, they all anticipate an intensive weekend. It is the first time since the COVID-19 crisis that the European Council convenes in person. The prevailing distancing and hygiene rules also apply to Federal Chancellor Merkel and her colleagues (from left to right: Council President Charles Michel, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, French President Emmanuel Macron).

The special summit in the meeting room of the European Council begins
© European Union

The multiannual financial framework (MFF) setting out the EU budget for the years to come is not the only item on the agenda. Above all, the task is to cushion the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in the EU Member States. 

Arrival of Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Council building
© European Union

The expectations placed on the summit participants are high. Federal Chancellor Merkel, here arriving at the Council building in Brussels…

Emmanuel Macron on his arrival at the Council building
© European Union

…and French President Emmanuel Macron have put forward an ambitious plan in advance – a European recovery fund worth 500 billion euro that President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen increased by 250 to a total of 750 billion euro.

Council President Charles Michel with his bell in the European Council
© European Union

But there is a need for discussion. The member states have different views and it is Charles Michel's task as President of the Council to mediate between the positions.

Terrace discussion: Council President Charles Michel and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban
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A phase of intensive consultations between all parties involved begins. The aim is to find lines of compromise. Here, Council President Charles Michel and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán speak bilaterally on the second day of the special meeting.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte with Council President Charles Michel
© European Union

Bilateral talks also take place in the meeting room, such as here with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Council President Charles Michel.

Federal Chancellor Merkel and Commission President von der Leyen in conversation
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The discussions last well into the night and the summit originally planned for two days is extended initially until Sunday and finally until Monday evening (from left to right: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU-Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Council President Charles Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron).

Delegations at the late night summit
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The delegations also stay up late in the corridors of the Council building. But at the end of a long night, an outcome is in sight and the joint efforts appear to have paid off. 


President of the European Council, Charles Michel
© European Union

At 5.31am on Tuesday morning, Council President Michel, here with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (l.) and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (r.), finally announces the breakthrough on Twitter: “Deal!”

President Emanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel at the final press conference
© Bundesregierung/Bergmann

Ultimately, President Emmanuel Macron and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a joint press conference on the outcome of the Council meeting. As Merkel says at the end of the historic meeting, Europe has demonstrated its ability to find an answer to the “greatest crisis in the history of the European Union”.