Last week, on Thursday 20th and Friday 21st February, EU heads of state and of government met for the first Extraordinary Summit of the European Council dedicated to the EU long-term budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027 (MFF 2021-2027).
For more than 27 hours, alternating plenary sessions and bilateral meetings, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, could not find ways to concretely narrow the gaps between Member States and achieve concrete results towards the adoption of an MFF 2021-2027.
Between the “Friends of Cohesion”, a group of 19 Member States gathering mainly net receivers calling for the protection of the Cohesion Policy and for an ambitious EU budget, and the “Frugal Four”, calling for a budget limited to 1% of the EU GDP and focused on fostering an innovative and competitive economy, the fight against climate change, migration and security, the gap remains worryingly wide. With less than one year to go in the current programming period, we will soon run out of time, and the continuity of funding for beneficiaries is now at risk. Such a situation would send a negative signal to EU citizens, social partners and the whole civil society. In the light of the challenges ahead of us, predictability is key for economic actors and citizens.
In its Opinion on the MFF 2021-2027 adopted after the presentation of the European Commission’s initial proposal, CEEP has identified the following priorities for actions, which were also brought to the attention of the EU leaders ahead of the meeting of the European Council:
- Strategic Infrastructure: public investment in key physical and social infrastructures are the main levers to foster growth whilst protecting our environment and public health, with the MFF 2021-2027 providing a key opportunity for reinforcing their financing.
- Circular economy: because of its transversal aspects and multiple effects for citizens, the environment and the economy, the circular economy should be a key feature of the MFF 2021-2027, as it can foster innovative solutions to build a new path for innovative businesses, promote industrial research, create jobs and facilitate a just and environmental-friendly climate transition.
- Sustainable Europe Investment Plan (SEIP): it will be essential to include all three dimensions – social, economic and environmental – in the fight against climate change. The SEIP and the Just Transition Mechanism are central to making the EU Green Deal a success, and they should be at the heart of the MFF 2021-2027.
- Economic, Social, Territorial Cohesion and the ESF+: CEEP advocates for a pre-allocation of 25% of the Cohesion Funds to the future ESF+, and for at least keeping the ESF+ budget at the level of the previous programming period, remaining an EU structural fund focused on its core goals (employment, education, social inclusion and the fight against poverty).
- Investing in Social Dialogue: it is urgent to develop a mechanism for monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the Code of Conduct on Partnership by the Member States and to make respecting its principles an ex-ante conditionality in the preparation and implementation of operational programmes.
We now hope EU leaderswill find a common approach and bring the different positions closer together in order to agree on the size and the priorities for the EU budget for the next 7 years. An agreement at the Council level will however not yet be the end of the process, as the European Parliament, which called for an ambitious EU budget, will still need to give its approval to the Council proposal. Only then will the European Union be able to address the important challenges ahead of us…