The EU should have the financial means to tackle challenges such as coronavirus or migration, said MEPs in a plenary debate on the EU long-term budget.
The discussion in Parliament on 10 March focused on the proposal of European Council President Charles Michel for the size and structure of the EU’s long-term budget that failed to gain approval by EU heads of state and government at their summit on 20-21 February.
Most MEPs criticised his proposal as lacking ambition and pointed out current challenges show Europe should have a budget that allows it to act and live up to people’s expectations.
José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, Portugal), who is a member of Parliament’s negotiating team on the long-term budget, said: “It is perhaps a good thing that the Council has not reached an agreement. The European Parliament could not have approved an agreement that would go against the interests of European citizens. EU leaders are coming up with fine words and goals, but when it comes to backing those targets with the financial resources, they don’t do so.”
S&D group leader Iratxe García Pérez (Spain) said: “It is preferable to have no agreement [on the EU budget] rather than a bad agreement.”
The capacity to act
MEPs said current challenges show the EU has to have the financial capacity to provide common solutions.
Siegfried Mureșan (EPP, Romania) reminded that in June 2019 the European Council adopted a strategic agenda committing to effective control of external borders, strengthening the single market and achieving digital sovereignty. Yet the proposal of Council president Michel foresees double-digit percentage cuts to the EU’s border guard agency, internal security, single market and Digital Europe programmes. “The proposal of Charles Michel does not respect the promises of the European Council. Our answer should be no.”
Jens Geier (S&D, Germany) also pointed out inconsistencies in EU leaders’ messages on Europe: “For years, we have been seeing the same situation. On Sunday, in speeches [EU leaders] ask for more border protection and more to be spent on climate, on common defence policy and so on. On Monday, member states aren’t prepared to stump up the money. By Tuesday, it’s all about how bad things are given the EU can’t solve the problems.”