MEPs debate EU summit results on long-term budget, rule of law, climate

On Wednesday, MEPs welcomed agreements on MFF, recovery fund and 2030 climate targets, but warned that they expect the Rule of Law mechanism to be strictly implemented.

“We worked around the clock. Negotiations were intense but we took responsibility, overcame the obstacles and came together for the good of Europe”, said European Council president Charles Michel. “This agreement represents a major step forward. We now have the resources, we have strengthened the rule of law with new and effective legislation and we have agreed to step up our climate goals for 2030”. He also highlighted the progress made in the fight against the pandemic, on vaccination and on economic recovery. “Europe is stronger and rising to the challenge of COVID-19”, he added.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, stressed that NextGenerationEU “will lead to the most ambitious overhaul of the European economy in decades”. With regard to the Rule of Law mechanism, she underlined that the deal with Parliament has not been reopened and that the Council conclusions “don’t change the law”. The Commission President also praised the 55% reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions. With regard to the future EU-UK relations, she underlined that she cannot say “whether there will be a deal or not, but there is a path to an agreement – a narrow one, but it is there”, despite remaining differences on level playing field and fisheries. On COVID-19 vaccines, she said that the first vaccine should be approved in one week and the aim is to start vaccinations on the same day in all EU countries.

For the German Council Presidency, State Minister Michael Roth said that Europe has learned the lessons from the past: “Solidarity is the way out of the crisis; we leave nobody behind”. He stressed that Europe is much more than just an internal market. He underlined that “not a single word has changed to what was previously negotiated” in the rule of law regulation. With regard to the MFF and the recovery fund, he said that from next year on, the money can reach people and regions that have suffered and that Europe “stuck to its word”.

Manfred Weber (EPP, DE) welcomed the deal reached on the EU’s long-term budget. “We have a lot of money now on the table. EUR 1.8 trillion, first of all to be used for solidarity”. He also welcomed the rule of law mechanism saying, “for the first time, we have a link between EU money and respect for the EU’s basic principles. We now expect the Commission to stand ready to apply these rules independently as of 1 January, based on the facts.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to reinvent ourselves”, said Iratxe García Pérez, (S&D, ES). These are unprecedented achievements, she said, citing the multiannual financial framework and the rule of law mechanism, which “makes our values stronger”. She also welcomed the EU’s “first social bonus system”, and the recovery fund. “We have learned the lessons of the 2008 crisis – austerity cannot be the solution, we can’t leave out those who need us most”, she added.

Dacian Cioloş (Renew, RO), said that 2020 exposed the weaknesses of the European project. There was a lack of coordination and solidarity; borders were closed. However, Europe worked hard to react to the crisis, citing the recovery fund and the development of a vaccine. “We have shown that we are most effective when we are united and when we share priorities”, he stressed. On the rule of law, he welcomed the Commission President’s statement that law prevails over declarations.

Marco Zanni (ID, IT) was critical on the rule of law mechanism saying, “The agreement is ambiguous and factitious, and the celebratory tone in this debate, of an absolutist EU, is misguided. Threats to national sovereignty are extremely concerning. Unanimity is the only way that democracy can be expressed in this particular structure.”

Ska Keller (Greens/EFA, DE) said “It is good to see that finally, at the 11th hour, the European Council gave its green light to support citizens and economies hit hard by the pandemic.” However, “there are some worrying trends behind these decisions. The last few weeks have seen the governments of Hungary and Poland obstructing and wanting to take the recovery fund hostage for their own anti-democratic agenda”, she said. Ms Keller also said that “the 2030 climate actions target is still far short of what is needed according to the scientific consensus”.

Johan Van Overtveldt (ECR, BE) welcomed the deal reached on the MFF, arguing that the EP’s priorities had found their way into the final agreement. “We could have done more to centre the EU budget on the future though, while the costs of the pandemic and dealing with climate change are not factored in enough.”

Manon Aubry (GUE/NGL, FR) said “the EU Little Red Riding Hood was eaten by the Orbán wolf”, deploring that the EU’s declared ambitions, for example on protecting democracy, human rights or the climate, are not matched by its deeds. She criticised the long-term EU budget agreement, as it ended up amounting to over €200 billion less than the EP’s original position, bringing fewer investments for agriculture, education, research, environment and health.