Brussels-The leaders of the European Union hold their first face-to-face summit in five months on Friday, but the reunion seems unlikely to bridge their divide over a post-virus economic rescue plan.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel turns 66 on the day that she and her 26 colleagues return to Brussels, not to celebrate but to test whether in-person negotiations can answer a 750-billion-euro question.

The EU has been plunged into a historic economic crunch by the coronavirus crisis, and EU officials have drawn up plans for a huge stimulus package to lead their countries out of lockdown.

But a determined band of northern capitals, led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Netherlands, are holding out against doling out cash to their southern neighbours without strict conditions attached.

Friday’s talks are expected to run into Saturday and perhaps even Sunday, but few here are confident of a breakthrough, despite the tight timetable, so another summit may well follow later this month.