European Parliament President David Sassoli | Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual
The European Commission has moved to allay reported fears that the European Parliament has been marginalised in EU discussions to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic.
The issue first surfaced in leading Spanish daily newspaper El País that some member states had “excluded” the Parliament’s President David Sassoli from talks on the EU’s response to the ongoing crisis.
The paper named Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the two leaders who had said Sassoli should be precluded from discussions. It was not made clear why they felt Sassoli should be left out of discussions.
The paper wrote: “The leader of the only institution chosen by universal suffrage has been deliberately excluded once again from the forum in charge of preparing the roadmap for a comprehensive recovery plan. Germany and the Netherlands lead the exclusion of Sassoli.”
The claims were dismissed by the Netherlands and, on Tuesday, a European Commission spokesman was asked to comment on the allegations that Sassoli had been excluded from meetings of the Eurogroup and whether this was “appropriate given that the European Parliament is the only democratically-elected EU institution.”
The Commission spokesman said, “The Eurogroup meeting [on Tuesday 7 April] was convened by European council President Charles Michel, but the participants had a video call with David Sassoli on the recovery plan.”
He added, “We will ensure that David Sassoli is also involved in the future.”
The meeting discussed the EU’s unemployment scheme and other responses to the COVID-19 crisis.
On Wednesday, Sanne De Ryck, a European Parliament spokesman told this website, “As mentioned at the Commission midday briefing, Charles Michel convened the participants in a format related to the Eurogroup.
“The Commission will also insist that in the future President Sassoli will be involved in discussions on the recovery plan” European Parliament spokesman
“He and European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen had a video call with president Sassoli last Friday to discuss the recovery plan. The Commission will also insist that in the future President Sassoli will be involved in discussions on the recovery plan.”
Sassoli, An MEP from Italy, which has been among the worst hit by the crisis, has made a point of trying to ensure Parliament is at the forefront of the EU’s efforts to address the crisis. Online plenary sessions and committee meetings have been held in a bid to ensure European Commission legislation on the crisis is approved.
Sassoli recently said, “All parliamentary bodies are continuing to work to tackle the COVID-19 emergency and we have ensured that MEPs are still able to meet remotely, participate in debates, propose amendments and vote.”
Parliament’s next plenary, in mid-April, will deal with the Coronavirus crisis, he said.
“We will ensure that David Sassoli is also involved in the future" European Commission spokesman
“MEPs will discuss and debate and we will update our position on how to deal with the catastrophe. Democracy will continue.”
On Wednesday, the College of Commissioners will hold what a spokesman for the executive called an “orientation debate on a roadmap to exit the restrictive measures” triggered by the crisis.
A scheduled press conference by Ursula Von der Leyen was postponed on Wednesday pending adoption of the roadmap, he said.
Meanwhile, the centre-right EPP group in the European Parliament, the assembly's biggest, has adopted what it calls “an ambitious European Solidarity Pact, consisting of immediate measures to beat the virus and mobilise all combined instruments.”
Amongst other steps outlined in the plan are an ‘EU Coronavirus Solidarity Fund’ of at least €50bn "supporting the financial efforts undertaken by the healthcare sectors of all member states and concrete measures enabling the EU to be “better prepared in the future for other unknown pandemics to come.”
The European Parliament, meanwhile, says its kitchens will be used to produce 1000 meals a day for health workers and those in need.
Sassoli said in a statement on Wednesday, “In agreement with the Brussels Capital Region, we have decided to make part of our building available to homeless people and the most vulnerable in society, during this serious health emergency. Our kitchens will make more than 1000 meals a day to be distributed to those in need, as well as to health workers to help them do their jobs.
“We are close to those who suffer, to those who work tirelessly in our hospitals, to the city and people of Brussels, as well as those of Strasbourg and Luxembourg, who welcome us and who need our help today."