Ahead of the EU summit, the Chair and the coordinators of the Committee on Budgets call for an ambitious budgetary and financial package in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
"The Covid-19 outbreak is an unprecedented European challenge that calls for immediate European-wide coordination and solutions. All together we must join forces to overcome the public health challenge that this crisis has engendered, while at the same time protecting our citizens, employees, SMEs and economies", Members of the Committee on Budgets said on Friday.
"We expect the EU Leaders today to support bold and coordinated measures to tackle this unprecedented emergency.
The Union budget is part of the solution to overcome the public health and economic shock, in complementarity with the national budgets and initiatives from the European Central Bank, the European Investment Bank.
With instruments like the civil protection mechanism, the research framework programme, cohesion policy or InvestEU - to name but a few - the EU budget offers clear added value by providing common equipment and facilities, channelling emergency support in and outside the EU, supporting scientific research and protecting/fostering investments.
We therefore call on the Union institutions, and in particular the European Council and the European Commission, to push forward a comprehensive and ambitious budgetary and financial package, providing the necessary liquidities, focussing in particular on the following short and long-term measures:
- Mobilise available financial means in the 2020 budget: Around 4 billion Euros of unallocated margins and flexibilities remain available in the 2020 budget. In the face of this unprecedented challenge, it is high time to mobilise further fresh financial means to help mitigate its multiple negative impacts.
- Refocus the 2019 EU surplus: Around 3 billion Euros of budgetary surplus from 2019 will soon go back to the Member States. These funds should be entirely used to facilitate/support the budgeting of Corona-related actions, preferably at EU level to ensure an optimal allocation.
- Ensure a flexible use of EU funds: The European Parliament will vote today on the Commission proposal to allow Member States a maximum of flexibility in redirecting resources from the cohesion funds to the fight against the coronavirus. We expect the Commission to provide all necessary support to the Member States in order to ensure a flexible and effective implementation of the available funds.
In the longer run
Today’s European Council will be obviously dedicated to the Coronavirus emergency. Later in the year, though, the Heads of States and Governments will have to come back to the negotiations on the MFF 2021-2027.
This crisis shows more than ever that we need a strong and ambitious future EU budget that increases our ability to manage European-wide crises with solidarity and resilience and to invest in the future of our economies, health systems, labour markets and societies.
We therefore ask the EU leaders to approach the future negotiations with this new awareness in mind. And to take also into account that already existing challenges - climate, social, economic and territorial convergence, digitalisation, geopolitical Europe, migration - might become even more critical due to the Corona crisis.
The situation today has very little in common with almost 2 years ago, when the MFF 2021-2027 proposal was put forward.
Therefore, we strongly renew our call on the European Commission to act realistically and responsibly and to urgently update its MFF proposal to take account of the new challenges and needs deriving from a post-Corona world. This context should not serve as an argument for a smaller budget, as it would lead us to failure in case of any future crisis.
At the same time we must acknowledge that in these circumstances it might not be possible to have the new MFF programmes up and running by January 2021.
We urge therefore the European Commission to propose immediately a contingency plan to protect beneficiaries and avoid a shutdown of Union programmes at the end of this year.
In times like today, nobody should gamble with the risk of not having a budget next year.
The European Parliament stands ready to swiftly process both the immediate and long-term initiatives responsibly and to do its part in a joint and coordinated effort with the other national and EU actors.
This crisis is brutally revealing the weaknesses of our health systems and economies. We all need to draw the right lessons from it, and equip ourselves with the means - first of all financially - to make the EU stronger and avoid that such a situation happens again in future", the MEPs concluded.