EU recovery plan an opportunity to restructure Europe

EU leaders will meet Angela Merkel on Wednesday to discuss the next steps towards reaching a swift agreement on the bloc’s massive Coronavirus recovery fund and its next long-term budget.
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By Martin Banks

29 Jul 2020

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen asked her European Parliament counterpart David Sassoli to join her and German chancellor Angela Merkel for the online talks.

It comes after EU leaders recently agreed a €750bn recovery fund and multiannual financial framework (MFF) package at a summit in Brussels earlier this month.

What was supposed to be a two-day meeting of EU leaders to negotiate the long-term budget and economic recovery package turned into a five-day diplomatic marathon, resulting in a €1.82 trillion deal.

Von der Leyen has since tried to quell European Parliament criticism of planned cuts to the MFF by saying MEPs will have a say in the distribution of the recovery fund. She says the European Commission is ready for a "regular exchange of views on national plans and implementation".

“I think this is the moment to refresh our memories of the 2008-2009 crisis where many of us in the Parliament believed that the response to that crisis was too little, too late” Polish EPP MEP Danuta Hübner

The Parliament must sign off on the agreed deal and MEPs have warned they want a total rethink on cuts to key EU programmes such as Horizon and the Erasmus educational scheme.

The two EU leaders, Sassoli and von der Leyen, will hold ‘virtual’ discussions later on Wednesday about next steps. Merkel has been asked to take part because Germany, from 1 July, assumed the rotating six-month presidency of the EU.

Speaking ahead of the talks, Danuta Hübner, a senior MEP, asked, “What should be discussed?

“First of all they should react to the Council’s focus on national envelopes which finally led to changes, making the whole new financial package not really fit for the future.”

Hübner, a former European commissioner told this website, “I think this is the moment to refresh our memories of the 2008-2009 crisis where many of us in the Parliament believed that the response to that crisis was too little, too late.

“I also hope that the leaders meeting today will see the obvious need to proceed with the regulation on rule of law mechanism through codecision.

“Hopefully, they will reflect on those national leaders who do not plan to respect the rule of law. It is hard to believe that a member state can use the threat of vetoing the agreement on financial support for an EU in deep distress.”

The Polish EPP deputy added, “I regret thoroughly that Poland continues to distance itself from what is the core of European integration.”

Former Liberal MEP Sir Graham Watson told this site, “This recovery plan will not be to everybody’s liking but it’s the only deal on offer. Europe should grasp it.”

“The need for tinkering at the edges must not prevent the leaders of the Parliament, Council and Commission from seeing the wood for the trees,” added Watson, an MEP from 1994-2014.

Another former UK Liberal MEP Andrew Duff told The Parliament Magazine, “The council should concede delegated acts (instead of implementing acts) on spending from the Recovery Fund.

“And it should also agree to a midterm review of the MFF to boost spending on the progressive elements of the EU budget.”

“Von der Leyen should agree to finance eurobond-holders only from revenue earned from the genuine, new own resources. Angela Merkel should agree to push new taxes as soon as possible. All three leaders, Merkel, Von der Leyen and Sassoli, must try to act and think federally so that the AAA rating stays of the eurobond is assured.”

“We need to focus on reconstruction as well as on recovery. We cannot simply restore what existed in the past” Luca Jahier, president of the European Economic Social Committee

Further comment comes from Luca Jahier, president of the European Economic Social Committee who said recovery from the effects of the Coronavirus crisis will only be successful if it is accompanied by the “restructuring of our society.”

He added, “We need to focus on reconstruction as well as on recovery. We cannot simply restore what existed in the past.”

“We need to restructure and improve it.... [and] we must also ensure good governance and democratic accountability. It is also imperative to understand why certain social groups were left more vulnerable during the crisis... and to work to limit such vulnerability going forward.”

 “This is why we need to do more work on the governance of the Resilience and Recovery Facility which is all but consistent, with the European Parliament cut off, and the rebates increased, despite the UK's departure.”

Jahier added, “Respect for the rule of law is not properly reasserted and on the own-resources, the European Council has been too prudent. With ambition, determination and political will we shall succeed.”

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