23rd Mar 2023

Parliamentary power struggle may delay Juncker fund

  • EP committees disagree on the exclusive competence over earmarking parts of the investment fund. (Photo: EUobserver)

Power games in the European Parliament could cause delay in the implementation of the EU’s flagship investment fund.

The dispute revolves around which one of four committees - industry, transport, economic affairs, or budget - has the competence to earmark money for energy savings projects.

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On Tuesday (14 April), the industry committee adopted an amendment to mark €5 billion of the €16 billion in guarantees provided by the EU budget to go to energy efficiency projects and €5 billion to go to SMEs. The guarantees are expected to raise private investment adding up to €315 billion into the fund, also known as the "Juncker fund".

According to one of the authors of the amendment, Luxembourg Green MEP Claude Turmes, the industry committee (ITRE) had exclusive rights.

But on Thursday, the economic and budget committees challenged the industry group.

The two committees want to also vote on earmarking in a joint meeting this Monday (20 April), even though the industry MEPs consider it a done deal.

Back in February, the four committee chairmen signed an agreement, seen by this website, which says the transport group (TRAN) “will have exclusive competence … on point 5.2(a) with a clear understanding between ITRE and TRAN on the relevant ITRE parts of this paragraph”.

Point 5.2(a) refers to the part of the EU commission's legislative proposal which states the investment fund will support “development of infrastructure, including in the areas of transport, particularly in industrial centres; energy, in particular energy interconnections; and digital infrastructure”.

The two sides are interpreting the text differently.

The same four MEPs that signed the text met in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the issue. They did not reach an agreement, but did agree that if there is still no deal before next week’s vote, the contentious part of the proposal will not be voted on.

That would mean the whole implementation process of the investment fund may be delayed, said Turmes, who suspects “political games” behind the case.

“We had a democratic vote, and this vote was won by socialists, greens, and others”, Turmes told this website.

He said the centre-right EPP group, the largest in the parliament, is behind the push to have another vote, changing the rules after losing the game.

“Now that EPP has lost a political vote, which they don't like, they are doing everything to reverse the ITRE competence.”

The chair of the industry committee is Polish MEP Jerzey Buzek, a member of the EPP, who, Turmes said, is “under huge pressure by his own troops” to make the objection.

The Green MEP also accused the EPP of applying pressure to Irish centre-right MEP Sean Kelly, one of the authors of the amendment with Turmes, to withdraw his name from the amendment shortly before the vote.

“The Irish prime minister [a member of EPP] called him to withdraw”, said Turmes.

No one at Buzek's or Kelly's office was able to comment on Thursday.

A spokesperson for the EPP, Pedro Lopez de Pablo, said he was “not aware of any kind of pressure” from the EPP.

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