The EU’s Coronavirus recovery plan is on the agenda of the 19 June EU meeting of heads of state or government, but ahead of this, MEPs will make clear their position on the initiative in a plenary debate in Brussels on Wednesday.
EU Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner Elisa Ferreira will also take part in a separate debate on the same issue in Parliament later today.
The Commission’s recovery plan aims to help economically weaker countries hit hardest by the Coronavirus to recover at a more equal pace with the stronger ones.
The stimulus plan, backed by France and Germany, is to be deployed over the next four years and is designed to help the EU shift to being climate neutral by 2050 and be better adapted to the digital age.
But controversially the plan, called “Next Generation EU”, entails the Commission borrowing on the market against the security of the EU budget and then giving, rather than lending, some of the money to needy states.
Socialist group leader Iratxe García demands the “proper involvement of Parliament,” adding, “because that also means a more democratic process and accountability.”
“We will not accept the same mistakes made during the 2008 crisis where Parliament was left aside” Iratxe García, S&D Group leader
She added, “We will not accept the same mistakes made during the 2008 crisis where Parliament was left aside.”
The Spanish member said the assembly can make “a crucial contribution in supporting the recovery plans in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.”
The EPP group, in a statement, said Parliament “must be involved in the decision-making process on how the money is used.”
Speaking to this website just ahead of Wednesday’s plenary debate, German Greens MEP Rasmus Andresen outlined Parliament’s role, saying, “The Recovery Plan is based on Article 122.1, where Parliament is sidelined. However, for decades the Parliament has been defending a greater democratic scrutiny over any EU legislative act as it represents the EU citizens and is the only directly-elected body.”
“This is why Parliament is calling for exercising its co-decision powers in all legislation, especially in all EU programmes. The legal base for Next Generation EU therefore has to be changed by the Commission.”
Andresen, a member of Parliament’s negotiating team on the MFF, said, “It won’t be enough to have an administrative process led by the Commission. We need Parliament to control the process.”
On the so-called “Frugal Four” (the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden), who oppose the plan, he said, “I hope Member States compromise and reach an agreement. Although it now seems one side will win or lose we want to remind Council that the EU is a common project representing the interest of all citizens.”
“I am therefore calling on the Council to find a compromise, which is best for the EU's citizens and not their heads of state,” added the budgets committee member.
“For decades the Parliament has been defending a greater democratic scrutiny over any EU legislative act as it represents the EU citizens and is the only directly-elected body” Rasmus Andresen MEP
Another MEP, who did not wish to be named, said, “When it comes to the overall volume of own resources Parliament has no co-decision power. It only gives its consent (or not)”
“In the recovery package the legal base is Article 122 (1), where Parliament is left out, against Article 122(2), where it is included. This means Parliament cannot decide the distribution of the recovery package. But that is absurd as part of the money is being distributed through existing or new programmes within the MFF. That is why we want co-decision power in the recovery package.”
Former UK Liberal MEP Andrew Duff, a respected EU constitutional expert, commented, “The legal bases for what is proposed are treaty-based, and therefore immutable unless and until the treaty is amended.”
“The own resources decision has definite rules established by Article 311, giving the Parliament only a marginal role. MEPs have power of co-decision over the MFF (Article 312), which is more useful.”
“These decisions, which are about revenue, are really more important and strategic at the moment than decisions about expenditure (Article 122).”
He adds, “When it comes to the recovery programme, the Commission would be wise to give MEPs maximum latitude to influence decisions. Council will wish to have everything parcelled up by national treasuries. It’s in Parliament’s interest to stress the federal nature of the recovery programme – and this means giving the Commission extra executive authority.”
“As the only directly-elected body representing EU citizens, Parliament must be fully involved in the implementation of the recovery plan. We will set priorities so that support is directed where it is needed most and will have the biggest impact for European citizens” David Sassoli, Parliament President
“Everything else will have to wait for treaty change and the Conference on the Future of Europe will be the right place to explore options.”
Polish EPP deputy Danuta Hubner, a former commissioner, said, “Of course, Parliament wants to have more to say but there are treaty limits. This will be a difficult battlefield for some colleagues.”
Parliament President David Sassoli said, “As the only directly-elected body representing EU citizens, Parliament must be fully involved in the implementation of the recovery plan. We will set priorities so that support is directed where it is needed most and will have the biggest impact for European citizens.”
“We have to take this opportunity to reform the revenue side of the EU budget. This is why, for us, the introduction of new own resources remains a prerequisite to an agreement on the MFF. We still need more clarity from the Commission on this aspect.”
“What will be decided in the coming weeks will have an impact on people’s lives for the decades to come.”