Spurring economic recovery: Parliament approves Juncker Plan rules
The €315-billion “Juncker” investment plan, announced by the European Commission last November to encourage the financing of viable investments in Europe, was backed by the European Parliament in a vote on Wednesday. Parliament modified its financing structure, won a say in selecting its leadership and ensured more democratic oversight in negotiations with the Council.
Parliament approved the fund’s rules by 464 votes to 131, with 19 abstentions. The vote marks the end of a rapid legislative process, demonstrating Parliament's commitment to the plan.
Research and networks budgets shielded
Parliament sought to improve the financing structure of the plan’s guarantee fund, the fund's governance rules, its working arrangements and its democratic accountability. The key achievements were:
- scaling back cuts in the EU’s “Horizon2020” research and innovation programme and Connecting Europe Facility (CEF – to link up Europe’s energy, transport and digital networks) by €1 billion. Horizon 2020 and CEF, two of the three sources of financing for the EU guarantee backing the plan, will now contribute €2.2 billion and €2.8 billion respectively, i.e. €500 million each less than was originally proposed,
- ensuring that the €1 billion salvaged for the programmes will be paid for out of the unused budget margins of 2014 and 2015,
- winning the right for Parliament to approve the appointment of the managing director and the deputy managing director the investment fund,
- stipulating that the list of approved projects will be public, and
- requiring that a set of project selection criteria and a list of project goals be drawn up to ensure that projects selected are in line with the general priorities of the Union.
For all the details on the compromise, please see the background note.
Budgets Committee rapporteur José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT), said "The Juncker Plan is an innovative instrument that will give a major boost to investment in Europe. €240 billion from the plan will go to investments, and €75 billion will go to the backbone of our economy: the small and medium-sized enterprises that provide two thirds of private sector jobs and make up 99% of businesses in Europe. Politicians don't create jobs, but we can help those who do".
Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee rapporteur Udo Bullmann (S&D, DE), said "The European Parliament paved the way for the investments that Europe urgently needs. We ensured that the EU invests in modernizing its economy, instead of taking us back to the past. For the first time, these investments will be explicitly recognized in the context of the Stability and Growth Pact, rather than being penalized by it. In addition, we put an end to the politics of concealment – responsibilities are clearly assigned and the European Parliament is democratically involved in appointing the managing director".
Now that Parliament has approved the rules, the Council of Ministers needs to do likewise. The Council confirmed its provisional agreement with Parliament on 9 June and is expected to give its final approval in a written procedure soon. The Juncker Plan regulation then enters into force at the start of July, and the fund is expected to be fully operational by September.
Presented last November, the Juncker Plan aims to create a European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) made up of €5 billion capital from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and a €16 billion guarantee fund. The guarantee fund is to receive €8 billion from the EU budget, out of which the EIB may be paid in the event of a call on the guarantee. Parliament and Council hammered out a compromise on the Commission’s original proposal in eight three-way meetings between 20 April and 4 June.