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MEPs are pushing for to be spent on research and development, health and education and have also demanded a clearer link between economic aid and observing the rule of law. In their first debate on the agreement struck by EU leaders on the pandemic stimulus and a common 2021-27 budget of €1.074trn this week, many members of the EU assembly said they would fight for changes to the way the cash is distributed.
I am happy about the agreement but I am not happy about the deal
The European Parliament has to approve the spending plan over the next several months, before it can become reality and help lift the EU economy from recession.
Manfred Weber, who leads the biggest, centre-right parliamentary group, the EPP, said: “I am happy about the agreement but I am not happy about the deal.
“We think the the long-term budget is not giving proper answers to the challenges of the next seven years. It has to be more future oriented.”
He and leaders of other parliamentary groups said more money was needed to develop a stronger European coastguard, for health protection, research and development as well as defence and development aid for Africa and for other EU neighbours.
The German MEP said: “All in all, it is a strong summit result.
“Europe shows there can be common answers to the economic setback in the coronavirus crisis.
“The fact that 27 countries agree on such a package is unique in the world. Solidarity is back, we stand together as Europeans.
“That’s a good sign. However, there are major concerns on two specific points.
“On the one hand, there is the question of the rule of law, and on the other it is about too few future investments.”
Mr Weber said the European Parliament would also demand more of the budget earmarked for health and medical research.
He said: “The current proposal cannot be approved and must be renegotiated. I can only advise that Parliament’s position be taken seriously.
“It is precisely because of the coronavirus crisis that we are entitled to a strong health budget in the European Union.
“Massive savings have now been made here, and more than €7bn have been cut.
“This is not acceptable and is going in the completely wrong direction!
“The course is also being set wrong for future investments.
“We are already losing touch with China in research. Nevertheless, there are still cuts being made in research.
“Even today, we only live economically off the substance.
The decisions of the EU special summit and the EU budget are not sustainable at these points and therefore cannot be approved.
“We will now renegotiate to make improvements. It’s not about categorical rejection, it’s about making corrections.”
MEPs also said money from the recovery package and the budget should be assigned to a larger degree to pan-European projects like creating a trans-national 5G mobile network, European battery production, to become independent of China, or energy production from hydrogen.
Deputies also called for a more clearly formulated link between governments observing the rule of law – the division of power between lawmakers, the executive branch and the judiciary – and the disbursement of European money.
The rule of law debate is focused on Poland and Hungary where governments are under EU investigations over actions undermining the independence of courts, media and non-governmental organisations.
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Mr Weber said: “We have to be clear on this. We need a roadmap for implementing the clear principle: no money without respecting European rules and mechanisms.
“Before we spend the €750bn of the Reconstruction Fund, we need to be certain that the money will only go to countries that respect the independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and who consistently fight corruption. This is our red line.”
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)
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