The French MEP was speaking at a specially-convened meeting of Parliament’s regional development committee on Monday with European Commission Executive Vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis and Cohesion and Reforms commissioner Elisa Ferreira on the future of EU cohesion policy in the next EU long-term budget (MFF).
Speaking via a video link, Omarjee warned, “The same also applies to the most outlying regions in Europe which are threatened with economic collapse. All this should give us food for thought.”
During the debate discussions also focused of the role of SMEs, next steps for reform and the social consequences of the current health crisis.
Omarjee, who chairs the committee, used the meeting to appeal for a “big” MMF (the EU’s next long-term budget), saying, “I hope we will have an MMF which is commensurate with the current challenge faced by the EU.”
“On the next budget we must be bold and take the offensive. We do not need a small budget but precisely the opposite: a big budget with great European ambition across all EU policies.”
“The tourist season and tourist industry in Europe is shaping up to be a disaster, especially in those southern European states that are so heavily dependent on tourism” Younous Omarjee MEP
“We must also adapt regional policy so that it can meet the new needs," said the MEP, a member of the European United Left group in Parliament.
The crisis, he said, has caused “great shock and tragedy”, adding, “It is a traumatic wound that is unprecedented.”
He also paid tribute “to all cities which are trying to carry out their work and who want to exit the crisis as soon as possible. We raise our hats to you. We are alongside you and won’t forget you.”
He cautioned, “The exemplary mindset we have seen during this crisis must carry on because nothing will be the same again.”
“The EU now faces a severe judgement by the public. Its initial response to the crisis seemed to come late and it was, at first, hard to get a common response.”
“We have also seen some selfish, national reflexes within the eurogroup (Member States using the euro). We should remember that selfishness kills but solidarity saves. But, amidst all this, we still also see calls for a coordinated EU response.”
He said the EU’s cohesion policy and structural funds, which along with agriculture accounts for the largest chunk of the EU budget, will be in the “frontline” of the post-Coronavirus recovery “because the world will see a more territorially-divided EU, with falling GDPs.”
He added, “Cohesion policy therefore is more topical than ever.”
“A deep recession is unavoidable in Europe this year although an effective response can mitigate the impact of this” Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis
Further comment came from Dombrovskis, also appearing via a video link, said, “A deep recession is unavoidable in Europe this year although an effective response can mitigate the impact of this," said the Latvian official.
He told the committee that, so far, some €3.4 trillion has been committed by the EU, including €54bn from cohesion funds, to help Member States fight the crisis, including supporting healthcare systems and EU economies.
He said, “The EU has reacted fast to provide all necessary support to our economies and to help save jobs and keep companies afloat.”
The official warned, “Even so, more will be needed and this is where the MMF must be at the heart of the economic recovery. It must be a budget which is fit for purpose so we come out of the crisis stronger.”
Many have cast doubt on the long-term viability of cohesion funding in the next seven-year budget, which is yet to be decided, but he told committee members, “A strong cohesion policy remains central to the EU response to this crisis.”