Wednesday

21st Oct 2020

EU Parliament gears up for fight on budget deal

  • EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen (l) and parliament chief David Sassoli at a plenary before the EU leaders' summit (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Parliament is gearing up for a fight over the budget deal agreed by EU leaders earlier this week, saying in a draft resolution that it is not acceptable as it stands now.

A majority of parties in the parliament, including the centre-right European People's Party, the Socialists & Democrats, the liberal Renew, the Greens and the far-left GUE drew up a draft resolution, to be adopted by MEPs on Thursday (23 July).

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It says that the parliament "does not accept, however, the political agreement on the Multi-annual Financial Framework 2021-2027 [EU budget] as it stands" and is ready to negotiate on it.

The parliament has no say on the agreed €750bn recovery package, but needs to consent to the nearly €1.1 trillion EU budget.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel will be in the parliament on Thursday to discuss the package with MEPs.

MEPs want to have a say in the governance of the recovery package, which allows for one or more member state to sound the alarm if a recipient country's reform plans are not progressing.

The parliament also wants to have a say when it comes to approving national programs of those seeking recovery aid.

The parliament's draft resolution also warned that the "cuts applied to MFF [budget] goes against the EU's objectives", and calls cuts to health and research programmes "dangerous" in a pandemic.

The draft resolution states that the leaders's deal is "no more than a political agreement" between governments, and warns that the parliament "will not rubber-stamp a fait accompli".

European parliament president David Sassoli said certain corrections will have to be made in the budget, citing research and the Erasmus program for students, calling the cuts "unjustified".

He said the parliament also wants to see a "precise and concrete" timeline for 'own resources', i.e. new EU-level taxes.

Asked how likely that the agreement, hammered our by EU leaders during a five-day marathon summit, could be changed because of the parliament's objection, Sassoli said: 'I think some of the points can be changed in the interest for everyone."

The EPP's top budget MEP Siegfried Muresan said that parliaments always have the last say on any budget, on national and EU-level.

"We are ready for negotiations with council to agree on a final version of the budget so that we can proceed to vote. No vote without negotiation and improvements," he tweeted.

'Regrets'

The draft resolutions also says the parliament "strongly regrets" that EU leaders "significantly weakened the efforts of the commission and the European Parliament to uphold rule of law, fundamental right and democracy" with regards to new rules linking EU funds to these values.

Work is underway on legislation that would provide the possibility to suspend or freeze EU funds in cases "where there is a systemic threat to the values" and to the EU budget, based on a 2018 commission proposal.

The draft resolution calls for member states to complete the legislative work on this, although EU leaders only gave consent to a weaker tool.

The commission is expected to decide if it maintains its original proposal or amends it in line with the EU leaders's deal.

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EU leaders will face difficult and fundamental issues on Friday-Saturday (17-18 July), when they attempt to agree on the planned seven-year €1.07 trillion budget and €750bn recovery package.

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MEPs criticised the EU deal on the budget and recovery package clinched by leaders after five days of gruelling talks, saying it is not enough "future-oriented", and cuts too deeply into EU policies, including health, innovation, defence and humanitarian aid

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The budget committee chair said the European Parliament expects tangible improvements to the package in its talks with member states - while the German minister argued that the EU leaders' deal was difficult enough.

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