Tuesday

23rd Jul 2019

Katainen vague on €300bn investment plan

  • Katainen was the second commissioner to eat chocolate during the hearing (after Denmark's Vestagher) (Photo: European Parliament)

A parliamentary hearing of Finland's Jyrki Katainen, one of the seven vice-presidents in the new EU commission, has shed little light on where the money for a vaunted €300 billion investment plan will come from.

Incoming EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has promised to raise €300 billion to be spent over the next three years in the 28 EU member states.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He has put Katainen, vice-president for "jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness" in charge of this money-raising project.

Katainen was repeatedly asked by MEPs on Tuesday (7 October) where the new money would come from and how he will avoid it being wasted on not-needed bridges or airports.

"How can you persuade us that the €300 billion are not a 'mythical plan' that stays on paper or that it is simply redistribution of existing money?" one MEP asked.

Katainen, who is currently an economics commissioner after his predecessor Olli Rehn stepped down in June to take up an MEP seat, fielded the questions with smiles and composure.

He always called other commissioners by their first name, to dispel the impression that he will be their superior, even though Juncker appointed him as "team leader" over 18 commissioners.

Katainen said he will sit down with "Pierre and Jonathan" - the economics and financial services commissioners - once appointed and divide tasks and draw up a list of concrete projects to be funded.

He said his main three priorities will be "economic stability, public money for an "investment wave" where private money is not flowing, such as research, and, thirdly, energy and transport."

Katainen also said "surplus countries" - a reference to Germany - should spend more to help out the rest, while those who are still struggling with recession should concentrate their few resources on research and innovation.

His predecessor Olli Rehn, now an MEP in the trade committee, asked him how much of the €300 billion will be put into decreasing Europe's energy dependence on Russia.

Katainen listed a few projects, including one in Finland, and said interconnections and green energy were the answer.

He also described himself as "obsessed" with renewable energy, in reply to a question as to why green energy is not part of his portfolio or in the job description of any of the other six vice-presidents.

His own political family, the centre-right European People's Party, was quick to applaud his performance.

"The EPP Group is looking forward to working with Jyrki Katainen to set up the new European Investment Programme. He is our man for jobs and growth. Today he showed that he is well prepared for this extremely important job", said German MEP Burkhard Balz on behalf of the group.

But some MEPs remained unimpressed.

Katainen's performance was that of a "helpless schoolboy", said German MEP Bernd Lucke from the anti-euro Alternative fuer Deutschland party.

He criticised the Finn for not being able to say where the €300 billion would come from.

"If Katainen says EU funds should be spent more efficiently, then he obviously has no idea how much €300 billion are," Lucke said.

Slovene commission nominee to be sent home

MEPs are Wednesday to decide on the five commissioners who failed to get the green light after parliamentary hearings, with the Slovene nominee set for the axe.

Agenda

EU to unveil investment fund this WEEK

The unveiling of a highly anticipated investment fund, a censure vote, a decision on France's budget and the visit by the Pope to the European Parliament makes next week one of the busiest since the Juncker commission began.

News in Brief

  1. UK foreign office minister quits ahead of Johnson as PM
  2. AKK to boost Bundeswehr budget to Nato target
  3. Police arrest 25 after Polish LGBT-march attack
  4. Ukrainian president's party tops parliament election
  5. EU interior ministers to meet in Paris on migration
  6. Schinas nominated as Greek commissioner
  7. Sea-Watch captain hopes for change in EU migrant rules
  8. Russia willing to join EU payment scheme on Iran deal

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all

The visit of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to the White House on Wednesday showed that the current rift in transatlantic relations is deepening by the day.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. As Johnson set to become PM, ministers pledge to resign
  2. Poland's PiS prepares 'failsafe' for October election
  3. Abortion Wars
  4. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  5. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  6. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  7. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  8. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us