Mikuláš Peksa, Pirate MEP:
This week, EU member state leaders reached an agreement in Brussels in a historic moment, laying the foundations for the EU’s future work: most importantly in the field of tackling climate change and creating shared financial instruments to overcome the coronavirus crisis. They agreed on a multi-annual budget designed to help us deal with the challenges and crises we face.
Sadly, their proposal still has a number of weak points which might, and I think indeed will, cost us dearly.
The European Council decided to spend money where it is not needed and save money in the worst possible ways. They cut the contributions to funds meant to usher in a speedy recovery from the coronavirus crisis, making them quite incapable of truly reviving our economy in the long run. And even worse, they reduced the investment going into science, education, and healthcare. Science is a field that is best and most efficiently served on a European level and it lies at the root of Europe’s prosperity. Cuts to education will negatively impact the Erasmus+ programme, for example, and I probably don’t need to explain why defunding healthcare is a bad idea at the moment.
Member states that chose stinginess over solidarity did so at the expense of the EU’s future, which, in the end, might cost us more than a slightly larger budget would. We definitely need the budget to be increased.
The proposal was also very vague in defining the conditionality that would ensure funds would not simply be channelled right into the hands of European oligarchs, without really benefiting EU citizens. The European Parliament demands that these controls must be functional; this is a truly key point.
We have also let a huge chance for enforcing rule of law in the EU pass through our fingers. If we are to protect the principles of freedom, democracy, and equality, we need to make sure EU’s member states do not turn into autocratic regimes, and Hungary, Poland, and even Czechia have been creeping in exactly this direction. We had an excellent opportunity to make functional rule of law one of the conditions of drawing money from the EU’s funds, but sadly, the Council let it pass by. Naturally, that is only logical, considering heads of states and governments had to reach a unanimous decision on the proposal. Nevertheless, it poses a massive obstacle on the path to making the EU truly flexible and strict.
The European Parliament passed a resolution calling for rule of law conditionality to be obligatory. If somebody wants to stray off the path to democracy, it is their choice. But EU’s rules are clear: there is no place for dictators in the Union.
On the other hand, I appreciate that the Council heeded our calls by allocating at least some funds for combating climate change. Now, we have to create legally binding instruments to ensure climate protection measures will really be introduced. Truly tragic cuts have been applied to the Just Transition Fund, the main tool for helping regions transition to a more environmentally sustainable economy. I hope this part of the budget will be reviewed again.
The European Parliament will have the last say when it comes to passing the EU’s long-term budget: votes by a majority of MEPs are needed for the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 to come into force. MEPs will therefore conduct further negotiations with the Council, based on today’s resolution by the Parliament.
In this resolution, a clear majority of MEPs supported rule of law conditionality and increased investment in the abovementioned fields. The negotiations on these points were tough, but we did find a majority in the Parliament.
A final vote on the budget is planned for the next ordinary plenary session in September.