Friday

5th Jun 2020

MEPs threaten budget veto in EU scrap on corona-money

  • Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tried to calm MEPs by telling them the parliament will have a say in the recovery (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Parliament is to warn the European Commission against ignoring it in designing and implementing the recovery fund aimed at reviving the bloc's pandemic-struck economy.

The warning comes as parliament, especially the largest group, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), have felt increasingly left out of plans drawn up by EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen, herself an EPP member.

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  • MEP Siegfried Muresan said the planned resolution is to demand the rights of the parliament (Photo: European Parliament)

A resolution, to be adopted later on Friday (15 May), "recalls that parliament must give its consent to the MFF [the EU's multi-annual financial budget]".

It also "warns the commission against any attempt to design this European recovery strategy that would not be built on the MFF and its programmes" and "demands that parliament be involved in the shaping, adoption and implementation of the recovery fund, and that it be at the centre of the decision-making process to ensure democratic accountability".

The motion enjoys rare broad support from a majority of political parties, including the EPP, the Socialists and Democrats, the liberal Renew, the Greens and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).

"We want to be involved, the EU commission does not like it, but we have to ask for our rights, our role is not to please the commission," the EPP's top budget MEP, Siegfried Muresan, told a group of journalists on Thursday.

"We expect the commission to be an honest broker between the council [of member states] and the parliament, but we have seen the commission work much more closely with the council, rather than the parliament," he added.

He said the parliament is ready to veto the budget if MEPs are not given a say.

"We are ready to veto the budget, if we are not included in the recovery fund," Muresan said.

"We are aware this is a nuclear weapon, and we don't want to be put into this situation, but we are ready to vote agains the EU budget, if we are not included," he added.

Von der Leyen tried to calm nerves on Wednesday by telling MEPs in a speech that "it goes without saying that this parliament must provide the democratic accountability, and have its say on the entire recovery package, just as it does on the EU budget".

But the legal basis for the "recovery effort" and the "EU budget" differs, requiring parliament to be merely informed on the recovery fund, making it key for the parliament to stress the political link between the two pots.

"The European parliament will have the same say on how the recovery money is spent as it does on how the MFF [EU budget] is spent," von der Leyen said on Wednesday.

Last week, the commission chief unexpectedly joined the centre-right group meeting, which "prevented a total revolt" by the EPP's budget-specialist MEPs, an official said.

Muresan and EPP group leader, Manfred Weber wrote a letter last week to von der Leyen, demanding that parliament be "fully involved".

There are less EPP parties in government than before, making it more difficult for governments in the council to "contol" the group, and while it remains the largest parliametary group, it does not lead a grand majority as before.

All this makes it harder to take the EPP group's and the parliament's support for granted by the EPP-led commission.

MEP Johan Van Overtveldt, from ECR, who heads the budget committee, also warned recently against taking the parliament's consent for granted.

Plans to come

The recovery fund has been, in the meantime, reduced to a recovery "initiative" by the commission in its vocabulary.

The commission is expected to roll out its detailed plans later this month, which is expected to detail how the commission will use the budget headroom to raise money on the capital markets and pour it to the European economy.

EU leaders have already been at loggerheads over the next seven-year budget, which will now be complicated by the recovery instrument.

The parliament had criticised governments for cutting the planned budget.

"We are prepared to vote against a bad agreement," Socialist group leader Iratxe Garcia said on Wednesday on the EU budget.

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