The chances of European Union leaders agreeing on a coronavirus recovery fund by Sunday are "less than 50 percent," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in Brussels on Friday.
"But let's be hopeful -you never know," Rutte added, reports the CNN.
In May, the EU proposed a recovery fund worth €750 billion ($854 billion) – with a plan for two thirds of that money to be distributed to countries via grants, and the remainder being offered as loans.
The proposal has caused divisions within the EU, with a group of nations known as the "Frugal Four" – Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark – rejecting the compromise and favoring only loans.
EU leaders met Friday for a summit on the issue. Asked on Friday what compromise would allow for a deal, Rutte said: "That's one of the questions which we have to answer. But we could still get to a compromise, it is still possible."
The Dutch PM added that his country did not believe in a grants-based system.
"We need reforms," he said. "So that if the south [of Europe] is needing help from other countries to cope with the crisis, I understand that, and because there is limited scope to deal with that financially themselves.
"Then I think it is only reasonable for us to ask for a clear commitment to reforms. If then loans have to be converted to a certain extent into grants, then the reforms are even more crucial, and the absolute guarantee that they have taken place."
Rutte rejected suggestions that he was the "bad guy" in the negotiations, saying: "I'm fighting for Europe… a stronger European Union which is very much in the interests of everybody, including of course the Dutch citizens. A strong Europe which is economically more competitive and can play, with confidence, a strong role on the world stage. That's what at stake."