MEPs want to see a massive recovery package to support the European economy after the COVID-19 crisis, including recovery bonds guaranteed by the EU budget.
The measures would be financed by an increased long-term budget (MFF), existing EU funds and financial instruments, as well as “recovery bonds.”
It should not, however, involve the mutualisation of existing debt, but focus on future investment.
The European Green Deal and the digital transformation should be “at its core” in order to kick-start the economy, MEPs stress.
The results of the votes were announced in the chamber on Friday by Parliament’s President David Sassoli. Nearly 700 members, the vast majority, voted online.
It follows a special, mostly online, parliamentary plenary on the crisis on Thursday and Friday.
“Spending should be shared on the reconstruction plan and this aspect is expressed clearly in our resolution. Parliament has spoken clearly. We must all be aware we are in a very difficult phase of this crisis and we need to cooperate together” David Sassoli, European Parliament President
Sassoli, an Italian member, thanked all members who had voted, which, in most cases, was online as MEPs and others are currently discouraged from attending Parliament in person unless vitally necessary.
Sassoli, after the votes were given, told a press conference, “it is important Parliament has today said its piece, and with broad support, to stimulate the recovery.”
“Spending should be shared on the reconstruction plan and this aspect is expressed clearly in our resolution. Parliament has spoken clearly. We must all be aware we are in a very difficult phase of this crisis and we need to cooperate together.”
“That is my appeal to all governments: there should be a willingness to work together on this because this is about everyone’s co-existence, north and south. We want to exit this crisis.”
He added, “There seems to be consensus on using the EU budget for this purpose – the exit - and the creation of recovery (corona) bonds should be at the heart of the recovery plan.”
Sassoli said all necessary funds were needed to be made available to the Member States so that a maximum amount of resources are made available to them.
Reaction to the outcome of the votes also came from the leader of the Socialists and Democrats Iratxe García, who said on Friday, “This is a crucial moment in our history. We need a recovery plan only comparable to the Marshall Plan.”
“In this Parliament, we have been able to overcome ideological divisions and the national interest to defend a robust European response, for the sake of all our citizens” Iratxe García, S&D Group leader
“In this Parliament, we have been able to overcome ideological divisions and the national interest to defend a robust European response, for the sake of all our citizens. We hope that the Council will do the same.”
She added, “What is needed now is political courage and vision. It is time for strategic investment, not only to stimulate production and purchase power to re-activate the economy as the lockdown measures start phasing out, but also to ensure resilience in the future.”
“We must use this massive investment to strengthen our public systems as well as crucial sectors of our industry and economy.”
MEPs also on Friday called for a permanent European Unemployment Reinsurance Scheme and an EU Coronavirus Solidarity Fund of at least €50 billion.
Joint European action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic is “indispensable,” states a resolution adopted by members.
Deputies, in the resolution, insist that borders within the EU must be kept open to ensure that medicines and protective equipment, medical devices, food and essential goods can circulate.
Parliament also calls for the creation of a European Health Response Mechanism, to ensure a “better” response to any type of health or sanitary crisis in the future.
MEPs also stressed the need for a “coordinated” post-lockdown approach in the EU, in order to avoid a resurgence of the virus.
The outbreak has killed tens of thousands of citizens in Europe and around the world.
The Eurobonds issue will be debated by Council this week.
On April 10 EU finance ministers agreed the €540bn rescue package for European countries hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Under the terms of the package, projects can receive 100 percent EU funding.
The package agreed is smaller than the European Central Bank (ECB) had urged. The ECB has said the bloc may need up to €1.5 trillion to tackle the crisis. To the disappointment of several states led by Italy, the Eurogroup deal did not include using joint debt to finance the economic recovery.
EU leaders are expected to discuss this week whether to develop a financial vehicle to borrow funds on capital markets and then use them to attract private money for investment.
Separately, the EU will organise an online donor conference on May 4 to raise funds for the search for a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. The Commission said it did not have a target amount but that €8 billion was needed.
A Commission spokesman said, "We welcome today's votes by Parliament which allow for the rapid implementation of a number of Commission proposals to tackle the coronavirus crisis.”
“The votes today allow for an unprecedented redirection of cohesion policy funds to address the effects of the public health crisis; an additional €3.08 billion of EU funds for healthcare and emergency medical capacity; additional funding for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control; and a number of other support measures.”
He added, “Parliament's green light follows the swift approval by Member States in Council for the majority of these initiatives and the postponing of the Medical Devices Regulation still require approval by the council.”