Extracts from the speech of the European Parliament President to the European Council
European Parliament President David Sassoli used his speech at the opening of the European Council to stress the need to reach an agreement quickly on the next long-term EU budget. He explained that Parliament has already shown flexibility to reach an agreement but would continue to defend funding for key long-term EU programs that benefit citizens and promote a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the recovery package and the next long-term EU budget, Sassoli said:
“The global and geopolitical challenges facing the Union, against the background of a pandemic whose continuing spread is putting our Member States to a serious test, calls for prompt responses to the problems our citizens are enduring.
“Recognising the urgency of the situation, in mid-September Parliament took the first steps on the road to ratification of the Recovery Instrument. However, we need to reach agreement on a binding timetable for the introduction of new own resources over the next few years, to at least cover interest and repayments.
“There is one area where no progress has been made, however. In July, quite understandably, you focused your efforts on the Recovery Instrument and the sums to be made available to each Member State. But cutting the seven-year programmes which have a clear European dimension is the wrong approach.
“In an effort to reach a compromise, Parliament has retreated significantly from its initial positions on the MFF. In a spirit of constructive realism, I should like to summarise the key points for Parliament.
“First of all, let me remind you that our negotiators asked for an additional EUR 39 billion. This is a paltry sum when set against an overall package worth EUR 1800 billion, but one which would make an enormous difference to the citizens who will benefit from our common policies. We have put forward creative proposals to finance this 39 billion. In order to do this, we need an increase in the spending ceiling of 9 billion euros to reach exactly the same level of spending as in the 2014-2020 period in real terms.
“Second key point: we are proposing that interest payments for Next Generation EU should not count towards the MFF ceilings. It should be remembered that the Next generation EU is an extraordinary commitment, and therefore the cost of the interest should be treated as an extraordinary expense as well. It should not come down to a choice between these costs and the programmes of the MFF. Therefore, if we keep Next Generation EU interest payments outside the ceilings, we will have an additional EUR 13 billion available for the programmes.
“Thirdly, we need flexible provisions which are robust enough to allow us to cope with unforeseen events and which ensure that not a single euro under either the MFF or the Recovery Instrument is wasted. Any unused funds should be redistributed to the programmes covered by the multiannual framework.
“At present, the negotiations are stalled. You have it in your hands to get them moving again. If progress is to be made, the negotiating mandate issued to the German Presidency needs to be updated. We are not asking to start again from scratch. It is not about calling into question the July agreement, but taking a small step which would move us closer to final approval of the package.”
The President also stressed the need for a sustainable recovery from the pandemic:
“It is time for Europe to show leadership. Through the Paris Agreement, European nations made a commitment to lead the way towards a green transition. It is now our political and moral responsibility to deliver on those promises. The EU has the economic and political capacity to do so.
“The European Parliament’s position is that we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2030. The next decade will be crucial if we are to reverse the trend. We need a target, which acts as a bright beacon on the path to climate neutrality. Protecting the environment means new jobs, more research, more social protection, more opportunities.
“In the months to come, we will invest massively in the rebuilding of our economies and we must ensure that the recovery is not driven by the paradigms of the past. We should use the economic stimuli provided by public institutions to radically change our growth models while guaranteeing a fair transition that works for us and for future generations. No one should be left behind. The pursuit of climate neutrality represents an opportunity to narrow divides in our societies and restore balance by making them fairer and more inclusive.”
On Turkey, Sassoli stated:
“Turkish rhetoric is growing increasingly aggressive and the country's intervention in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is certainly not helping matters. Now is the time for the EU to fully support German mediation efforts, to stand united and speak with one voice. This is the only way to send a credible message and lend greater impetus to the de-escalation efforts.”
Finally, on the ongoing negotiations with the UK, the President said:
“Whilst the pace of the talks has picked up recently and the EU will continue to negotiate until the last possible moment, I am concerned about the lack of clarity from the UK side, as the end of the year is fast approaching. An agreement is in the best interests of both sides, but, as I have said before, this can never be at any cost. I hope that our UK friends use the very narrow window of opportunity that remains to work constructively towards overcoming our differences.
“As regards the Withdrawal Agreement, we fully expect the UK to uphold the rule of law and honour the commitments that were painstakingly negotiated and ratified by both sides. Peace and stability on the island of Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement are at stake. Nothing that jeopardises these achievements can be accepted, and we have a shared interest in and commitment to avoiding a hard border. We therefore urge the UK to honour its undertakings and, as a matter of urgency, remove the controversial provisions from the Internal Market Act. This would constitute a step towards restoring the trust which is fundamental to our future relationship.”
The complete speech is available here