MEPs will this week be asked to insist that future EU funding should be strictly linked to upholding the rule of law in any recipient member state.
The so-called “conditionality” clause is aimed particularly at EU countries such as Hungary and Poland which have found themselves at loggerheads with Brussels over their perceived failure to respect citizens’ rights and the rule of law, including attacks on the judiciary.
The next long term EU budget, the multiannual financial framework (MFF), and the European Commission’s recently-announced €750bn Coronavirus recovery plan are being debated in plenary ahead of an EU summit on Friday.
Speaking on Wednesday ahead of the parliamentary debate on the fiscal package, Dacian Cioloș, leader of the Renew Europe (RE) grouping in the European Parliament said his group will refuse to back both the MFF and recovery plan unless the “conditionality” clause is inserted.
He told a news conference that his group “expects a clear message” on the issue to be sent from the summit on Friday.
“Funding must be clearly connected to a rule of law mechanism for all Member States and to cover all EU funds. What we are saying is that EU money comes with values. The EU is not an ATM just to distribute money. It is also about the rule of law and values” RE group leader Dacian Cioloș MEP
Failure to directly link the disbursement of EU funds and respect for the rule of law will “no be acceptable” to RE which, he said, regards this as a “red line.”
“Funding must be clearly connected to a rule of law mechanism for all Member States and to cover all EU funds. What we are saying is that EU money comes with values. The EU is not an ATM just to distribute money. It is also about the rule of law and values.”
“We will insist that if we are to support the recovery plan and the MFF there must be much stronger rule of law conditionality.”
He added, “This is not just about Viktor Orbán in Hungary but other Member States and other Heads of State. All must be held accountable in the same way.”
Cioloș, a former Romanian Prime Minister, added, “We are happy with the EU recovery package proposal but now need to see it implemented.
“We are not so happy with the lack of ambition in the MFF and the failure to finance some key programmes.”
“It appears that the first four years of the MFF will focus on the recovery but there is a risk of underfunding some programmes in the three years of the spending period. This is not acceptable.”
He also highlighted that this week marks a year since the formation of the Renew Europe group saying it had played a “major role in the installation of a new European Commission team, defining its priorities and ensuring a gender balance” in the executive.
Speaking at a separate news conference on Wednesday, Socialist group leader Iratxe Garcia described Friday’s upcoming summit as “crucial.”
“This week, we must send a clear message that this is a priority and more important than ever. The crisis shows the need for EU reform and the summit must send a clear signal to council to adopt a common approach so that the conference can start by the autumn” S&D group leader Iratxe Garcia
Garcia, who marked her first anniversary in post on Thursday said, “This is a crucial moment for the EU and this summit is a key meeting, a chance to deliver a large scale stimulus to boost our economies.”
“But we want a proper MFF and the recovery plan must be linked to it so that parliament can exercise its co-decision powers.”
The Spanish MEP pointed out that the conference on the future of Europe should have started last month but has been “blocked in council.” EU Member States have so far failed to agree on a mandate and who should lead the forum.
Garcia said, “This week, we must send a clear message that this is a priority and more important than ever. The crisis shows the need for EU reform and the summit must send a clear signal to council to adopt a common approach so that the conference can start by the autumn.”
“It must not take place in an EU bubble but at the grassroots and be a bottom up, not top down, debate.”