The EU should secure adequate funding to push through its recovery plans and emerge stronger from the Covid-19 crisis, MEPs said during a plenary debate on 8 July.
The discussion with European Council President Charles Michel focused on the prospects of member states finding an agreement on the EU's budget for 2021-2027 and the crisis recovery plan at their summit on 17-18 July. The European Commission is proposing a package of close to €2 trillion to help the regions and sectors that were hit the hardest by the coronavirus and to set up the foundations for a sustainable, digital and resilient Europe.
Michel informed the MEPs of his bilateral consultations with EU leaders that aim to build consensus among member states. He said he would come up with a compromise proposal by the end of the week, but noted there are still significant differences: “My impression after this round of consultations is that we haven't finished negotiations and we have still a lot of work to do."
Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič stressed the need for cooperation between the Parliament, Council and the Commission and expressed hope that a meeting later on 8 July between the presidents of the three institutions and German chancellor Angela Merkel, who heads the German rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, would lay the foundations for a compromise.
Many MEPs underlined that an agreement among EU leaders that fails to provide sufficient funding would not be met with approval by Parliament. Siegfried Mureșan (EPP, Romania) expressed concern that the European Council was failing to involve Parliament in the talks. “We cannot agree with you, because you are going to propose a smaller budget for a European Union that has to do more,” he told European Council president Michel.
Iratxe García Pérez (S&D, Spain) spoke against the idea that member states should meet macroeconomic conditions to receive recovery funds: “We know what austerity means, how badly it affects the workers, the cuts in social costs. We simply cannot allow ourselves to go back to these policies."
Members urged the EU countries to agree on new resources for the EU budget. “We will not satisfy ourselves with a plastic tax,” said Valérie Hayer (Renew Europe, France), one of the lead MEPs on own resources. In her view, the burden on repaying the grants in the recovery fund should not fall on future generations. “Let’s put the burden on GAFA [Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon], on the multinationals that practise aggressive tax planning, on the big polluters."
MEPs urged EU leaders to keep in mind the scale of the challenges that Europe faces. “People are scared by the sum [of the package], but, frankly, we are talking about 1.5% of GDP for three years when we are looking at a recession that could be 9-10% of GDP,” pointed out Philippe Lamberts (Greens/EFA, Belgium). Rasmus Andresen (Greens/EFA, Germany) said climate and the rules of law are EU priorities and pleaded: “Do not allow any sham compromises to the detriment of climate and democracy.”
Budget committee chair Johan Van Overtveldt (ECR, Belgium) argued that European institutions should strive to reduce uncertainty for companies and citizens in these difficult times: “All institutions are urged to do their best to avoid institutional blockade. A blockade would only contribute to lack of impetus for economic and social recovery.”
“The European Council should get down to business,” urged Margarida Marques (S&D, Portugal), one of the lead MEPs on the EU long-term budget. She underlined the importance of what was being discussed: “The recovery fund is key in order for Europe to come out of the crisis." She added that the EU's long-term budget] was "key to the next generation's future".