MEPs say EC’s recovery package shows European solidarity is back

Parliament’s consent is conditional on the introduction of a basket of new own resources without further delay, EP MFF/OR negotiators stressed

Following the presentation of the renewed 2021-2017 MFF and recovery plan that EC President Ursula von der Leyen made at the extraordinary plenary on Wednesday, MEPs held a debate on the proposed package with the Commission and the Council.  

According to the EPP group chief Manfred Weber “European solidarity is back and we are opening a new chapter for the EU”. He highlighted that the new money needs to be spent on fresh ideas and not on Europe’s old problems. “Solidarity goes hand in hand with responsibility”, therefore it must be clear how the money will be paid back, he said, calling for new own resources and for digital giants to pay their part, he asserted.

Saying that the proposal is ambitious and outlining that it gives the EP “the role it deserves” in the design of the recovery package, Iratxe García Perez, S&D leader  warned that the survival of the European project is at stake. She called on the Council to adopt the new MFF by qualified majority to avoid keeping the EU “hostage by four member states”.

It is a game changer, unprecedented in the history of Europe, said Dacian Ciolos, Renew Europe president. “The MFF and the recovery plan must focus on the future”, with the Green deal and digital agenda as building blocks, he said, adding that despite the differences on some details, he really welcomes the approach. He also opined that “the EU is not a cash machine. Solidarity comes with values”.

Jörg Meuthen from the Identity and Democracy group defined the proposal as “completely wrong and nonsense”, without a proper legal basis and lacking responsibility or economic sense. The Commission wants to spend money “as if there was no tomorrow”, he said mentioning that it is a huge price for European taxpayers.

Greens group co-chair Ska Keller reminded that the big mistakes of the past forcing countries into austerity and blind market ideologies, should not be repeated. Instead, we need to make sure that the money is well invested into projects that will help in the long term, create jobs and save the one planet that we have, she urged.

Johan van Overtveldt, ECR, Budgets Committee chair specified that “if we are going to allow loans and grants, there must be clear conditions”. The money needs to go to where it is most needed, and there must be safety mechanisms in place for our businesses, he stressed remarking that people working and saving should not have to “fork out” for these programmes.

Instead of making a clean break with past dogmas, the Recovery Plan stops “midstream” said Manon Aubry, GUE group co-chief. She welcomed the new proposals on own resources, and called for the crisis debt to be cancelled, for direct perpetual loans to Member States, and for public support to be conditional on social considerations.

In a statement, the EP's negotiating team for the next long-term EU budget and own resources reform said that the €750bn borrowing plan is an important proposal for an efficient recovery, but insisted the recovery strategy should not be financed at the expense of the MFF.

Saying that it is high time to start negotiations on the MFF with the Council without delay, the six members of the MFF/OR negotiating team explained that they will carefully assess the package of proposals presented by the European Commission. They positively acknowledged the reinforcement of the current MFF in 2020 and the significant borrowing which are much needed.

Today’s Commission proposals are an important step, emphasised Johan Van Overtveldt, Chair of the Committee on Budgets, Jan Olbrycht (EPP, PL), MFF co-rapporteur, Margarida Marques (S&D, PT), MFF co-rapporteur, José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT), Own Resources co-rapporteur, Valérie Hayer (RENEW, FR), Own Resources co-rapporteur and Rasmus Andresen (Greens/EFA, DE).

But they expressed regret that the Commission has reduced its original MFF proposal, thus moving further away from Parliament and closer to the European Council President’s February 2020 proposal. Once the recovery phase is behind us, this could leave us with a weakened budget that prevents the EU from investing in its common future - such as climate and digital transformation, leaving it more vulnerable to further crises, they pointed out.

“Parliament shares the view that the recovery plan will be channelled through the MFF and must be embedded in a reformed system of own resources. But it would be self-defeating to trade the long-term against the short-term: the recovery strategy should not be financed at the expense of the core MFF and its wider objectives, which the Covid-19 outbreak has made more relevant than ever. Furthermore, any new budgetary tool must ensure Parliament’s participation and the community method to boost democratic oversight, transparency and accountability. We express, however, our concerns about future debt and the way it will be repaid in the future,” negotiators warned.

From their statement becomes clear that Parliament agrees with the general approach that the long-term repayment of the borrowing should be re-financed by new, genuine own resources in order to use European, rather than ever more national means to finance our needs and thus to avoid a new dividing line between net contributors and net recipients. We regret, however, that the Commission is only putting forward a menu of possible revenue sources rather than submitting concrete legislative initiatives for a basket of new own resources as requested by Parliament, which would also have immediate economic and policy benefits as of 2021, they underscored, reiterating that Parliament’s consent is conditional on the introduction of a basket of new own resources without further delay.

Parliament must give its consent to any new MFF, and stands ready to do so if the final agreement will include its main priorities and will genuinely provide for Parliament’s participation. We call on the Council to work constructively with Parliament on improving the Commission’s proposals, the six MEPs stated.

“Failing an agreement before the end of the year, 2020 ceilings would be automatically extended. That is why Parliament has formally requested that the Commission present an MFF contingency plan in order to eliminate any risk of discontinuity or disorderly extension. A contingency plan based on 2020 ceilings could indeed provide a better basis for the European Union’s recovery than a late and inadequate MFF.”

They also recalled that since November 2018, they have repeatedly expressed our readiness to engage with the Council on the MFF and the Own Resources, “to no avail”. Given how urgent this is, it is high time to start these negotiations without further delay,” the negotiators pointed out.

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