MEPs set to battle to overturn proposed cuts to EU’s long-term budget

In a debate in Parliament on the outcome of the marathon EU summit, MEPs welcomed the €750bn recovery plan but voiced fierce opposition to cuts to the budget.
European Parliament Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

23 Jul 2020

The warning comes after the five-day summit where leaders agreed on the recovery package to address the devastating health crisis.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who took part in the debate, admitted that cuts were a “bitter pill to swallow.”

In her statement, von der Leyen noted that “600,000 lives have ended too early and, unfortunately, this is not the end: we are not out of the woods yet.”

“One big watershed has been crossed, though. By standing united, EU leaders have backed the Commission with what is a unique recovery tool which will support the hardest hit, boost the single market and invest in the EU Green Deal.”

She admitted, “There are fewer grants than we and Parliament would have liked but this is an enormous fund and it can make an enormous difference. The €17.5bn Just Transition Fund will make a real difference and the new resources proposal is the big winner of the summit.”

“It is essential that, as a co-legislature, Parliament plays a key role in this but the agreement is a huge and historic step forward for the EU.”

“We are not ready to swallow the bitter pill of cuts to the budget. These big cuts in areas such as cancer research and the Horizon programme do not provide answers to the challenges of the next 7 years. The cuts being proposed are unbelievable” Manfred Weber, EPP Group leader

She also noted that EU funding will be dependent on meeting “European values and respect for the rule of law,” adding, “This is mandatory and these values are priceless.”

“The summit made a clear commitment to the respect rule of law. I strongly welcome this and will ensure this is taken forward. Protecting the budget and respect for rule of law go hand in hand.”

The package agreed this week, she said, provides “light at the end of the tunnel. But there is a shadow: the lean, long-term EU budget.”

Any cuts are regrettable”, she told members, adding, “some painful decisions were taken on many programmes including Horizon, our essential health programme and Invest EU.”

“All have been increased but not by as much as we would have liked. Even so, we managed to avoid some further cuts as some Member States wanted. But I still know that this MFF will be a difficult pill to swallow.”

“We faced an €80bn hole because of Brexit and the loss of a big Member State. The good news is that we have plugged almost all of that hole although that means every country will have to pay more.”

“We will not accept these cuts on EU programmes that we need. We should be increasing funding for things like Horizon and Erasmus and the recovery fund cannot come at the cost of those who need our help the most” Iratxe García Pérez, leader of the S&D Group

She ended by saying, “we have managed to save the EU from falling apart.”

But numerous members condemned likely cuts to the budget and several EU programmes, with EPP leader Manfred Weber leading the way.

He said, “The main message to emerge from the summit is that EU solidarity is coming home. We faced a horror scenario of nationalism and populism, but the summit sent a clear signal of togetherness.”

“EU leaders had a lot of sleepless nights but they did a great job holding the EU together. I am happy with the agreement but not with the MFF [the EU’s long-term budget]. This is all about cuts, cuts, cuts.”

He told von der Leyen, “No, we are not ready to swallow the bitter pill of cuts to the budget. The first budget proposal was in 2018 so please don’t tell us about delaying things either.”

“These big cuts in areas such as cancer research and the Horizon programme do not provide answers to the challenges of the next 7 years. The cuts being proposed are unbelievable.”

“There are going to be cuts to things like research and public health and we cannot accept that. It is irresponsible at a time of a national pandemic” Philippe Lamberts, Greens co-leader

“Some 90 percent of the €750n will go directly to Member States’ own budgets but no one knows exactly how this money will be spent. My fear is that it will be spent on national favourites such as taxes and building motorways while it should be used on clear EU projects.”

“Parliament will not give up on this. We will be the watchdog for EU added value on the budget and we must now use the time we have to find a solution to improving this budget deal.”

Iratxe García Pérez, leader of the S&D Group, said, “We will not accept these cuts on EU programmes that we need. We should be increasing funding for things like Horizon and Erasmus and the recovery fund cannot come at the cost of those who need our help the most.”

Renew Europe leader Dacian Cioloș said the EU had shown “unprecedented solidarity” in reaching a “historic deal” at the summit.

But Greens co-leader Phillipe Lamberts attacked the four countries - Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden - who called for cuts to the budget.

He said, “The Frugal 4 are misers. For them the EU is a money pot for which their countries pay too much into. But they should explain to their public how much they have benefited from the EU.”

“They are cynics and want to keep the cake without paying a fair price. They want to reduce the EU to a money pit, a new USSR, but they are poisoning their citizens with nationalism. The UK Tories did the same thing and we know where they are today.”

“There are going to be cuts to things like research and public health and we cannot accept that. It is irresponsible at a time of a national pandemic.”

Meanwhile, Council President Charles Michel agreed that the role of Parliament in the upcoming talks on the recovery package “is essential.”

He also agreed that the rule of law was “vital and a fundamental issue which will remain at heart of the debate.”

“There have been 600,000 deaths globally due to the pandemic. It has shaken us and tested us. The post-coronavirus world will have to be different and we will have to be more grounded.”

“This deal is a financial deal, but it is much more than that. It is about the meaning and direction we wish to give to the EU project. We have renewed our EU marriage vows and sent a robust and clear signal to citizens that the EU is present, solid and on its feet.”

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