Security and 'Juncker Plan' at heart of debate with Council president Tusk
"The European Strategic Investment Plan is not the silver bullet. But if anyone has ideas to overcome the economic crisis with one stroke, stand up please," said European Council President Donald Tusk in the debate on the results of the December European Council, which also covered tax avoidance and — in the wake of the Paris attacks — security and passenger name records.
Mr Tusk asked Parliament for its support to ensure that the Juncker plan could start in June. He committed to stepping up the fight against tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning, which he considered "a matter of fairness and social justice". He said the passenger name records (PNR) file was "difficult and delicate", referring to the need to balance security and freedom. He made the case for a single European PNR system: "28 national systems would be a patchwork with holes. They would interfere with the privacy of citizens but would not properly protect their security," he said.
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told MEPs that the College of Commissioners was still discussing the investment plan with a view to building more flexibility into the pact "without changing the rules". The Commission would table its proposal to fight tax evasion by June, he assured the House.
Manfred Weber (EPP, DE) said the EPP group was looking forward to close cooperation on security issues and backed the Juncker plan. He restated his group's support for the investment plan and promised that Parliament would deliver. He also backed the aid scheduled for Ukraine and stressed that it was vital for the EU to have robust and secure external borders.
Enrique Guerrero Salom (ES, S&D) wanted more flexibility in using the investment package funds. He said the Council had not fulfilled its duty because member states seemed unwilling to make commitments to the fund. He stressed that the PNR legislation "should be debated calmly and not in the heat of the latest events" and that citizens' freedoms must not be sacrificed.
Adrzej Duda (ECR, PL) said the Juncker plan faced many challenges, one of which was energy security. He protested at the closing of coal mines in Poland which "could leave millions unemployed",
Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE, BE) said: "We should stop calling the investment plan the Juncker plan. It should be Tusk, Merkel, Renzi, Hollande plan, the 28 member states should back it and provide funding." He stressed the need to complete the digital single market and called for a new counter-terrorism strategy, with a real European Intelligence Service sharing all data. On PNR he said: "We need a data protection directive before we approve the PNR."
For the GUE/NGL group, Dimitrios Papadimoulis (EL) asked why Mr Tusk was celebrating the December summit as it had achieved nothing. He wanted to know how the Juncker package would be funded and called for austerity to be replaced with job-creation. He questioned the multiplier of 15 used by Mr Juncker..
Speaking for the Greens/EFA group, Philippe Lamberts (BE), pointed to the social and environmental challenges facing Europe, He wanted to see more references to the risks of poverty and to environmental sustainability in the Council conclusions. "We cannot send citizens the message that they don't count in the debate," he added.
EFDD group leader Nigel Farage (UK) said Mr Tusk had learned nothing from the results of the European elections last summer: "Migration is the big problem, You promised your voters that young Poles would return home but you have become the newest Polish émigré! EU voters want massive reforms, and you are not the man to provide them."
Janusz Korwin-Mikke (NI, PL) called for, among other things, the introduction of the death penalty and the destruction of the EU.
Procedure: Commission and Council statement (without resolution)
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