European Union finance ministers have agreed on a €500bn (£430bn – $540bn) rescue package to support and aid European countries hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Ministers were close to a deal on Wednesday, but the talks broke down and had to be resumed a day later, amid a dispute between Italy and the Netherlands over how to apply the recovery fund.
The deal was announced by the Eurogroup president Mario Centeno after lengthy discussions in Brussels, he said:
“Today, we agreed upon three safety nets and a plan for the recovery, to ensure we grow together, not apart, once the virus is behind us.”
Centeno added that “these proposals build on our collective financial strength and European solidarity.”
Moreover, the agreed package is smaller than the European Central Bank (ECB) had urged, the body earlier suggested the bloc may need up to €1.5tn (£1.3tn) to tackle the pandemic.
The EU has shown that they are determined to stick together irrespective of their differences.
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed deep divisions in EU
At their Brussels talks, EU ministers failed to accept a demand from France and Italy to share out the cost of the crisis by issuing so-called coronabonds.
Italy and Spain have accused northern nations - led by Germany and the Netherlands - of not doing enough.
The deal eases concerns that the bloc was incapable of uniting behind a common strategy, EU leaders must now ratify the accord amid a continuing climate of mistrust and tension, with divisions emerging between north and south Europe.
The ECB has said the bloc may need up to €1.5tn (£1.3tn) to tackle the crisis.
However, the French Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire, hailed the agreement as the most important economic plan in EU history.