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New Generation EU must be fully co-defined, co-decided and controlled by the European Parliament

The European Commission had to be quite imaginative in order to find the appropriate legal framework to accommodate the EUR 750 billion recovery plan called New Generation EU. Indeed the European Multi-annual Financial Framework does not allow neither one-off aids nor such large debt burdens. The solution was found in an extensible reading of Article 311 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, entitled The Union’s own resources ,and which leaves room for creating revenue beyond the usual budget perimeter. Nevertheless subtle distinctions have to be made since own resources are supposed to be stable, regular and not to be reimbursed. It is therefore expected that the decision creating this own resource will not refer to it as … being an ‘’own resource’’ but as … being an ‘’other resource’’. Please read the subtle argumentation presented by the Commission on this purpose (https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/qanda_20_1024 ) . 

Legal agility is more than welcome in order to allow a major leap forward in the European construction, but the solution found must still comply with the democratic principles of the Union. Let us briefly recall paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 10 of the Treaty on the European Union: 1. The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy. 2. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament.

However, Article 311, which the Commission uses to give a legal framework to its ambitious program, does not give any decision role to the European Parliament. The second paragraph of this article states that it is the Council, i.e. the Member States, which unanimously will define all the provisions relating to this new resource. The European Parliament will be only consulted; it has no power of decision or control.

The approval of the European Parliament is mentioned only in the third paragraph of Article 311, but in a context which may suggest that such approval is necessary only if the Council has so decided in the implementing measures which it will itself define. I have sent a request for clarification to the Commission on this point.

European recovery cannot be limited to a question of money, it is also  a very important question of values. This aspect is all the more important in a context in which our democratic values are being very much challenged by populism on all sides, not to mention the blows dealt by foreign authoritarian regimes. And I don’t dare to mention here the scrupulous  checks that the Constitutional Court of Karlsruhe may have to do one day on this topic. In any case, Europe would lose all credibility in defending its values if it does not apply them at the very moment when it is about to make a historic leap forward. The New Generation EU program would lose here its legitimacy.

A decision on financial resources equivalent to more than 65% of the Union’s multi-annual financial framework cannot not be discussed and decided by the European Parliament. 

Just one year ago, the European citizens were praised for their European commitment, for the high turnout in the European elections and for having contained the raise of Eurosceptic populists. Do we now want to exclude the same citizens from some historic decisions and for which by the way they will have to bear the financial cost? Unacceptable and politically very dangerous. Let us stop discrediting Europe at a time when it is absolutely essential to defend it.

New Generation EU must be fully co-defined, co-decided and controlled by the European Parliament.

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  1. I received the following answer from the Spokesperson’s service of the European Commission. I thank them for having answered and the answer is fair but nevertheless shows that indeed the EP is not a co-decision maker on the New Generation EU

    Quote

    Please find below some background information on the involvement of the Parliament in the process.

    · The Parliament will be involved at the level of the adoption, the implementation as well as in the ex post control of the EU Recovery Plan.

    · The Parliament’s participation in the adoption of programmes receiving funds from Next Generation EU is strong, since it will decide as co-legislator about the kind of measures to be supported, the receipt of funds by each specific programme and on how the programme will be implemented. The agreement of the co-legislators to implement the funds through the programmes is thus essential.

    · Next Generation EU is a temporary and dedicated instrument –it will channel financing to EU programmes for the implementation of exceptional and temporary recovery measures to support the recovery within the Union in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. It aims particularly at measures to tackle the adverse economic consequences of that pandemic as defined in Article 2 of the Next Generation EU / European Recovery Instrument.

    · While there are different legal bases for the package (MFF, Own resources, Next Generation EU, sectoral proposals), and different procedures (ordinary legislative procedure for the sectoral programmes, consent for the MFF, consultation for the own resources, special (legislative) procedure for Next Generation EU), the Commission expects that all those instruments will be negotiated as a comprehensive political package, including between the Council and the European Parliament.

    · The Commission has in its Communication called for very close cooperation between the European Parliament and the Council on all elements of this recovery plan.

    · Time is of the essence. In order to have a sound and effective package adopted in time, a strong steer will be needed within each institution.

    · The Commission has proposed to submit a dedicated annual report to the Council and the European Parliament to provide full and transparent information on revenue (ORD) and expenditures (Next Generation EU and sectoral spending programmes), including the contribution of the borrowed funds to the achievements of the objectives of the Next Generation EU and the specific Union programmes.

    · In terms of implementation of expenditure the normal rules apply. This also includes standard information of the European Parliament on implementing acts under the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law Making.

    · For the ex-post control by the European Parliament and the European Court of Auditors, OLAF and EPPO the normal rules apply.

    Unquote

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