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EU Budget: Parliament, Commission debate flares up. “More funds to meet citizens’ needs.”

Controversial debate on the 2021-2027 EU budget for economic and financial growth, to boost employment, security, as well as education, research, healthcare and environmental protection. The Assembly in Strasbourg took a stand on the Multiannual Financial Framework, opposing cuts in agricultural policies and cohesion funds. President Tajani’s resolution: a “political budget” with “adequate resources”

The debate on the EU Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 kicked off in Brussels, involving a great part the Union’s economic integration as well as the concrete possibility of continuing along the path of political unity of its Member States, based on internal solidarity and security, along with external competiveness. The proposed budget amounts to approximately one billion Euro over a seven-year period in the areas of EU competence and, obviously, considering their geographical and sectoral distribution (industry, agriculture, employment, environment, energy, infrastructure, digital Europe, defence, innovation and research, education, youth, consumers, health, cooperation …).

Not ambitious enough… The Multiannual Financial Framework (extending over a seven-year period) revolves around a set of Commission proposals, to be defined by the two budgetary authorities of the Union, namely, Parliament and Council, with the aim of its approval before next year’s European elections, thereby ensuring its operativeness in 2021. This week’s plenary meeting at the European Assembly in Strasbourg examined the budget proposals presented by the Commission at the beginning of May, focusing on a set of key issues that include agriculture and cohesion policy (Structural Funds). In essence, MEPs believe that the positions supported by the Commission are not ambitious enough at a time when the EU should have greater decision-making powers and more funds to meet citizens’ expectations. For example, MEPs criticised the lack of adequate resources allocated to the Erasmus + program (the proposed increases – up to € 30 billion – would not be in line with what was promised at the time), research, support to small and medium enterprises, youth employment opportunities. Parliament welcomed the “Own Resources” proposal for financing EU budget based on the diversification of sources of revenue, notably Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base and national contribution on non-recycled plastic packaging waste. On May 30, the Commission, chaired by Jean-Claude Juncker, made known its proposals for some chapters of the MFF, including culture, education, Erasmus +, “social pillar”, rights and justice.

Truly common agricultural policy. Parliament adopted a resolution supported by a very large majority on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which absorbs about two-fifths of the Union’s financial resources. MEPs reiterated that after 2020 agricultural policy must be “smarter, simpler, fairer and more sustainable”, but also well financed and “truly common.” In this respect Member States should enjoy more flexibility “to adapt the farming policy to their needs”, whilst rejecting any “renationalisation of the CAP”, which could “distort the competition on the single market.” Common set of objectives, rules, tools and checks are MEP’s indications for a fundamental sector of European economy, directly linked to EU citizens’ quality of life and health, environmental and landscape protection. For this understandable reason “farming activities in all member states to be subject to same EU high standards and their breach should trigger similar penalties.”

Ambitious goals. The text adopted in the hemicycle envisages a set of measures in support of agriculture, breeding, forests, environmental and financial sustainability. The document’s rapporteur, MEP Herbert Dorfmann, declared: “We need ambitious targets for the future EU farming policy. We need to guarantee secure supply of high quality food for EU citizens, better support for young, new and family farmers, to increase our farmers’ competitiveness – also by making farming smarter and more innovative, and better equip them to face market fluctuations.” European Commission’s legislative proposals for primary sector spending programmes are scheduled for June 1st.

Economies of scale. In a statement, EP President Antonio Tajani conveyed his stand on the budget. “A political Europe that looks to the future needs a clear vision, geared towards providing effective answers for its citizens. The first change is a political budget, with adequate resources that reflect Europeans’ priorities on security, defence, immigration, unemployment and fighting climate change. There is no need for treaty change, just courage and political will.” Tajani went on: “This Parliament believes that the Commission proposal with a ceiling on resources of 1.11% of Member States GNI is insufficient. As of 2021, the United Kingdom will no longer contribute. If we want to spend less at the national level and be more effective, we need to create economies of scale and added value at the EU level. To this end, we must invest at least 1.3%.” He added: This increase must not come from the pockets of our citizens, who are already paying too much, but through new own resources. Web giants, financial transactions of a speculative nature and those who pollute with non-biodegradable plastic, must make a fair contribution. We are concerned that the Commission did not include its recent web tax proposal in the new “own resources” basket.” The President asked to “increase funds” for defense, security, control of external borders, management of migratory flows and the integration of the Western Balkans.

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