Rule of Law conditionality: Parliament wants investigations launched immediately | News | European Parliament
News | European Parliament
MEPs instruct EP President Sassoli to call on the Commission, within two weeks at the latest, to “fulfil its obligations” under the Rule of Law Conditionality Regulation.
In a resolution adopted on Thursday with 506 votes in favour, 150 against and 28 abstentions, MEPs note that the new conditionality instrument to protect the EU budget has been in force since 1 January 2021 and also applies to the Recovery funds. Despite this, the Commission has not proposed any measures under the new rules and has not respected the deadline of 1 June given by Parliament in its 25 March resolution to finalise the guidelines on the application of the Regulation. This “constitutes a sufficient basis for taking legal actions under Article 265 of the TFEU against the Commission”, they say.
The risk of the EU budget being misused in EU countries has grown and rule of law is deteriorating, MEPs stress, and they instruct President Sassoli to call on the Commission, within two weeks at the latest, to “fulfil its obligations” under the new regulation. To be ready, “the Parliament shall in the meantime immediately start the necessary preparations for potential court proceedings under Article 265 of TFEU against the Commission”.
MEPs urge the Commission to swiftly address the severe violations of the principle of rule of law in some member states that are seriously jeopardising the fair, legal and impartial distribution of EU funds. It should use all tools necessary, including the procedure foreseen in Article 7 of the EU Treaty, the EU rule of law framework and the infringement procedures, to address the persistent violations of democracy and fundamental rights in the EU, including attacks on media freedom, journalists, as well as freedom of association and assembly.
The rule of law conditionality regulation, designed to protect EU funds against their possible misuse by EU governments, entered into force on 1 January 2021. However, no measures have been proposed under the new rules. The European Council asked the Commission to delay their application so member states could challenge it in the EU Court of Justice (Poland and Hungary did so on 11 March 2021), and until the Commission had developed specific application guidelines.
In a resolution adopted in March 2021, Parliament reiterated that the European Council’s conclusions on this matter carry no legal effect, and that application of the new regulation cannot be subject to any guidelines. If the Commission deemed such guidelines necessary, they should be adopted no later than 1 June. MEPs also asked the Commission to consult the Parliament before their adoption. In a committee meeting on 26 May, the Commission indicated it intends to consult the Parliament in the first half of June.
News | European Parliament. March 23, 2021
Parliament will vote on three laws on implementing the EU’s Own Resources system, paving the way for its reform and the introduction of new sources of EU revenue.
MEPs will debate and vote on three regulations dealing with the implementation of the reformed system of EU revenue. The laws will work in conjunction with the key Own Resources Decision (ORD), approved by Parliament in September and by Council in December 2020, currently in the process of being ratified by the member states (ratification tracker here). The ORD will also enable the EU to borrow €750 billion for the “Next Generation EU” recovery plan.
The three laws include provisions on calculating and simplifying the EU’s revenue, on managing cash flow, and on monitoring and inspection rights. These are needed to ensure the EU budget’s reformed revenue side continues to function smoothly.
Through these votes, Parliament will speed up the reform of the EU’s revenue, allowing the “Next Generation EU” recovery fund, worth €750 billion, to be used. In addition, new sources of revenue will provide new financing for the EU budget, such as a levy on plastic, and help repay the debt created by the recovery fund. MEPs are expected to appeal to EU countries to ratify the “Own Resources Decision” as soon as possible.
News | European Parliament 09-03-2021
On Tuesday, MEPs adopted the new InvestEU programme, which will mobilise public and private investments and guarantees simplified access to financing.
Parliament endorsed the provisional agreement reached with the Council with 496 votes in favour, 57 against and 144 abstentions.
With €26 billion (in current prices) set aside in the EU budget as a guarantee, InvestEU is expected to mobilise €400 billion to be invested across the European Union from 2021 to 2027. The new programme is part of the €750 billion Next Generation EU recovery package, and will foster strategic, sustainable and innovative investments and address market failures, sub-optimal investments and the investment gap in targeted sectors.
Sustainable and strategic investments
InvestEU supports strategic investments in manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and supplies – crucial in the midst of a pandemic – as well as the production of Information and Communication Technology, components and devices in the EU.
It will also finance sustainable projects that can prove their positive environmental, climate and social impact. Those projects will be subject to the principle of “do no significant harm”, meaning they must not negatively affect the EU’s environmental and social objectives.
Furthermore, MEPs made sure that InvestEU contributes to achieving the target of spending at least 30% of EU funds on climate objectives by 2027 and that it provides support for SMEs negatively affected by the pandemic and at risk of insolvency.
Additional investments of around €400 billion
The additional investment across the European Union, expected to amount to €400 billion and the EU guarantee will be allotted to the following policy objectives:
Moreover, the European Investment Fund (EIF), which will contribute to the implementation of the InvestEU programme, will get an additional €375 million.
José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT), lead MEP from the Budgets Committee said during the debate on Tuesday: “The EU needs public and private investments to become more competitive, productive and to boost its territorial cohesion. Invest EU brings in additional funds to turn projects that otherwise wouldn’t see the light of day into reality. Our strategic sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, should be independent. We need to help regions that suffered the most, and EU citizens deserve investment and high-quality jobs”.
Irene Tinagli (S&D, IT) leading the negotiations on behalf of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee added: : “We diverted more funds to meet environmental targets, to support SMEs, which suffered because of the pandemic, and we succeeded in placing Invest EU at the heart of NextGenerationEU. Since InvestEU will also help us to recover from the pandemic, we created synergies with the Recovery and Resilience Facility, allowing member states to implement part of their recovery and resilience plans through InvestEU”.
Once Council has also formally approved the regulation, it will enter into force on the twentieth day after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU.
News | European Parliament
On Wednesday, Parliament approved the Recovery and Resilience Facility, designed to help EU countries tackle the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The regulation on the objectives, financing and rules for accessing the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) was adopted with 582 votes in favour, 40 against and 69 abstentions. The RRF is the biggest building block of the €750 billion Next Generation EU recovery package.
Curbing the effects of pandemic
€672.5 billion in grants and loans will be available to finance national measures designed to alleviate the economic and social consequences of the pandemic. Related projects that began on or after 1 February 2020 can be financed by the RRF, too. The funding will be available for three years and EU governments can request up to 13% pre-financing for their recovery and resilience plans.
Eligibility to receive funding
To be eligible for financing, national recovery and resilience plans must focus on key EU policy areas – the green transition including biodiversity, digital transformation, economic cohesion and competitiveness, and social and territorial cohesion. Those that focus on how institutions react to crisis and supporting them to prepare for it, as well as policies for children and youth, including education and skills, are also eligible for financing.
Each plan has to dedicate at least 37% of its budget to climate and at least 20% to digital actions. They should have a lasting impact in both social and economic terms, include comprehensive reforms and a robust investment package, and must not significantly harm environmental objectives.
The regulation also stipulates that only member states committed to respecting the rule of law and the European Union’s fundamental values can receive money from the RRF.
Dialogue and transparency
To discuss the state of the EU recovery and how the targets and milestones have been implemented by member states, the European Commission, which is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the RRF, may be asked to appear before Parliament’s relevant committees every two months. The Commission will also make an integrated information and monitoring system available to the member states to provide comparable information on how funds are being used.
Siegfried MUREŞAN (EPP, RO), one of the lead MEPs involved in the negotiations said during the debate on Tuesday: “Today’s vote means that money will go to people and regions affected by the pandemic, that support is coming to fight this crisis and to build our strength to overcome future challenges. The RRF will help to modernise our economies and to make them cleaner and greener. We have set the rules on how to spend the money but left them flexible enough to meet the different needs of member states. Finally, this money must not be used for ordinary budgetary expenditures but for investment and reforms.”
Eider GARDIAZABAL RUBIAL (S&D, ES), one of the lead negotiators said: “The RRF is the correct response to the impact of the virus. It has two aims: in the short-term, to recover by supporting gross national income (GNI), investments and households. In the long-term, this money is going to bring about change and progress to meet our digital and climate goals. We will ensure that the measures will alleviate poverty and unemployment, and will take into account the gender dimension of this crisis. Our health systems will also become more resilient”.
Dragoș PÎSLARU (Renew, RO), one of the lead MEPs involved, said: “Europe’s destiny is in our hands. We have a duty to deliver recovery and resilience to our youth and children, who will be at the centre of the recovery. One of the RRF’s six pillars is dedicated especially to them, which means investing in education, reforming with them in mind and doing our bit for youth to help them get the skills they will need. We do not want the next generation to be a lockdown generation”.
Once Council has also formally approved the regulation, it will enter into force one day after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU.
News | European Parliament January 21, 2021
The Technical Support Instrument will help EU countries prepare the recovery plans needed to access funding from the Recovery and Resilience Facility.
The regulation adopted by Plenary on Tuesday, with 540 votes in favour, 75 against and 77 abstentions outlines how the Technical Support Instrument (TSI) will support economic recovery after and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic by promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion as well as digital and green transitions including biodiversity and implementation of climate targets. The reforms supported by the instrument should effectively address the challenges identified in the adopted country-specific recommendations.
Specific objectives and actions
The TSI will assist national authorities in preparing, amending, implementing and revising their national plans. The text sets out a list of key actions to be carried out, such as digitalisation of administrative structures and public services, in particular healthcare, education or the judiciary, creating policies to help people retrain for the labour market and building resilient care systems and coordinated response capabilities. A single online public repository managed by the European Commission will provide information on the actions that fall under the TSI.
TSI budget and implementation
The TSI will have a budget of €864 million over the period 2021-2027 (in current prices). In order to receive technical support, such as expertise related to policy change or to prepare strategies and reform roadmaps, a member state has to submit a request to the Commission by 31 October, outlining the policy areas it will focus on. To ensure resources are readily available and that there is an immediate response in urgent or unforeseen circumstances, up to 30% of the yearly allocation should be reserved for special measures.
Once Council has also formally approved the regulation, it will enter into force one day after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU. There is going to be a transitional period for actions initiated before 31 December 2020, which will be governed by the Structural Reform Support Programme (2017-2020) until their completion.
For next year’s budget, MEPs obtained better support for key EU programmes that create jobs, tackle the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and boost climate action.
llion; payment appropriations total €166.1 billion. The details of the 4 December agreement between Parliament and Council are available here.
After Council formally approved the agreement with Parliament on Monday, Parliament approved the budget on Friday by 540 votes to 77, with 70 abstentions. It was then signed into law by President David Sassoli.
For a more competitive Europe, creating jobs and investing in the EU’s future
MEPs succeeded in bolstering, on top of the Commission’s budget proposal, programmes they considered key to boosting growth and jobs, reflecting widely agreed European Union priorities, namely Digital Europe (+25.7 million) and the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) for transport infrastructure (+€60.3 million).
Strengthen respect for Europe’s values and boosting climate action
As a supplementary effort to fight climate change, the additions obtained by the EP for the LIFE programme (+€42 million) aim, from the outset, at contributing to reaching the target of 30% of climate-relevant spending in the EU budget for the 2021-2027 period.
The Rights and Values programme will receive an additional €6.6 million, and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), an independent EU body that fights crimes against the Union budget will benefit from an extra €7.3 million.
MFF top-ups: supporting the young, EU research and healthcare
Other reinforcements for 2021 reflect the top-ups to selected key EU programmes that Parliament obtained in the deal with Council on the next long-term EU budget (MFF) 2021-2027, approved on 16 December.
This is the case for Erasmus+ (+€175.1 million), Horizon Europe (research programme, +€20 million) and the EU4Health programme, the EU’s response to COVID-19, by a further €74.3 million. EU4Health will support medical and healthcare staff, patients and health systems. Similarly, the commitment appropriations for humanitarian aid have been increased by €25 million and for supporting the EU’s southern neighbourhood by €10.2 million.
“I’m pleased that we reached a swift agreement in the interest of European citizens in these challenging times. With the top-ups for some of the future-looking programmes agreed in the multi-annual framework just weeks ago, we obtained budget increases for other programmes with proven European added value. These extra investments in, for example, the trans-European transport networks and digital Europe, all respond to real needs and are in line with the expectations of EU citizens”, said the Chair of the Budgets committee Johan van Overtveldt (ECR, BE).
“In all conscience, we know that this budget is not up to the challenge. It was the most that could be obtained given the restrictions of negotiating the MFF with heads of state in unanimity. The good news is that there is a solution that can mobilise 50 billion EUR per year for health, climate and jobs, and that cannot be blocked by the unanimity rule: taxing speculation in enhanced cooperation. The Commission says it can be adopted by the end of 2022. Let’s get to work without delay”, said the lead rapporteur (Commission section) Pierre Larrouturou (S&D, FR).
“We cannot build promising policies for the future without operational, efficient, modern, environmentally friendly and interactive institutions that are capable of functioning even in the event of force majeure. By voting in favour of the 2021 budget, we are giving the institutions of the European Union sufficient resources and staff so that they can best fulfil their missions and meet citizens’ expectations in times of crisis. This new agreement finds the balance between making savings in a time of crisis and not impeding the EU institutions from functioning properly, said the rapporteur for the other sections, Oliver Chastel (RENEW, BE).