The package has been vetoed for a month due to the rejection of Hungary and Poland to the link to the rule of law.
The plenary of the European Parliament approved on Wednesday the community budget for the period 2021-2027, endowed with 1,074 billion euros, which was unlocked last week after Hungary and Poland received guarantees on how the funds will be linked to the rule of law.
The negotiators of the Council and the European Parliament reached an agreement on these accounts on November 10, but the budget package – together with the post-pandemic recovery plan – has been vetoed for a month by the rejection of Budapest and Warsaw that the disbursement of the money was linked to the rule of law, as the Twenty-seven had agreed with the European Parliament.
Finally, these two countries agreed last week with the German presidency of the Council a declaration with some guarantees on the application of this mechanism, which in any case does not modify the content of the regulation: it will allow for the first time to freeze European aid when a country violates the rule of law.
This interpretative declaration unlocks both the European budget of 1,074 billion euros and the post-pandemic fund of 750,000 million euros, although the latter does not require the approval of the European Parliament.
The deputies approved the budget on Wednesday with 548 votes in favor, 81 against, and 66 abstentions, in a regulation that also includes a roadmap for the introduction of new own resources to feed the EU budget.
A new step towards aid
The parliamentary approval of the so-called multiannual financial framework together with the decision on their own resources paves the way for countries to start ratifying the legislation in their national parliaments that will allow the European Commission to issue debt to finance the reconstruction fund.
Of those 750,000 million, Spain corresponds to around 140,000 million, although Brussels estimates that this money will not reach the countries until at least June 2021 because, once the fund is ratified, it will have to issue the debt to finance it and approve the plans. recovery countries.
After two months of long negotiations between the German Presidency of the Council and the negotiators of the European Parliament, the final agreement contemplates several increases compared to the figures agreed by the Member States at their historic summit in July. Specifically, these are increases of 16,000 million euros for programs such as Erasmus + (2,200 million more), Horizonte science and research (4,000 million), border management (1,500 million), or the Health4EU health program (600 million), among others.
The increase, demanded by Parliament to swell programs that they consider key, remains below the 39,000 million they requested in their last proposal but is higher than the close to 10,000 million that the Council (the countries) had initially offered.
The bulk of the increase, about 11,000 million, will come from the fines imposed by Brussels for infringements of competition and the rest of the reallocation of funds during the period and from taking advantage of margins in certain items, with which the budget expenditure ceiling remains at 1,074 billion euros as requested by the Council, which was very reluctant to tweak this cap.
Rule of law
In a parallel vote, MEPs also validated the regulation that will link the disbursement of funds to comply with the values of the rule of law, which will allow for the first time that aid to a country is frozen if there are violations of the rule of law that affect the Community budget if the Commission so proposes and is approved by a qualified majority of the Twenty-seven.
The clarifications to lift the veto of Budapest and Warsaw indicate that this mechanism will only be used to penalize violations of the rule of law that concern the budget and if there are no other more effective mechanisms, and that if a country requests the annulment of this regulation before the Court of Justice of the EU, the European Commission will not be able to propose measures against potential offenders until there is a court ruling.
This point generated unease in some partners, in particular the Netherlands, but the legal services of the Council confirmed that the text is in accordance with the European treaties, with which the leaders gave their unanimous approval.
The MEPs, who plan to approve a resolution tomorrow to ask the European Commission to be ” completely independent ” when it comes to monitoring compliance with these values and not delay their entry into force, remain concerned.
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has promised that the Commission “will always act independently, with the utmost respect for the law and with the utmost objectivity”.