Half a year ago the EU countries agreed on a program to counter the recession. Now the development fund is as good as ready to go.
BRUSSELS taz | The European Parliament has cleared the way for a climate-friendly and digital restart of the economy in the corona crisis. The EU parliamentarians voted with an overwhelming majority of 582 to 40 votes in favor of the € 672.5 billion construction fund. The vote is considered historic, as the EU is breaking new ground and throwing old fiscal dogmas overboard.
In the face of tight budgets, Brussels wants to run into large debts for the first time. This also makes the EU an important player in the financial market; the first bonds met with great demand. What is also new is that a large part of the financial aid is distributed as grants and not as loans. Ailing countries like Italy do not have to pay back the money.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke of an “important step” in overcoming the crisis. The so-called “Recovery and Resilience Facility” will make Europe “greener, more digital and more resilient”. At least 37 percent of the expenditure per country should go into climate protection, one fifth into digitization.
Initially, however, the program primarily helps the EU Commission. She not only gets more money, but also more power. Because the distribution of the financial aid is monitored by Brussels. The 27 EU countries have to present reform plans in order to benefit from the subsidies. In doing so, they should not only orientate themselves towards climate goals, but also meet neoliberal reform requirements from the “European Semester”.
Many MPs are frustrated
Chancellor Angela Merkel had insisted on this before she gave the green light. Merkel also succeeded in ensuring that the program is limited in time and that the debts are repaid. In addition, the EU should receive new “own resources” – taxes and duties. The details will not be determined until later. The states have the last word; the European Parliament only plays a minor role.
This leads to frustration for many MPs. “A stronger role for parliament would have been an important counterbalance here,” criticizes CSU MEP Markus Ferber. “Right from the start, the member states wanted an account from which they could withdraw money undisturbed, without having to comply with the annoying requirements of Brussels.”
Criticism from the Greens
This also applies to Germany, where 23 billion euros are to flow, says the green budget expert Rasmus Andresen. “Instead of investing in reforms and innovation, the money should be put into projects that were already planned”, criticizes Andresen. “Municipalities that could drive real innovation are left out.” Berlin does not use the development fund for a green restart.
But there is another problem: The new EU aid should only flow in the summer – and therefore too late to fight the current severe recession. In addition, the new European development program is relatively meager if you compare it with the USA. The new US President Joe Biden has announced a massive increase. However, the EU does not want to follow suit.
At the EU summit in July 2020, at which the construction fund was decided, there was almost a break between Germany and France on the one hand and the Netherlands, Austria and other “thrifty” countries. Many EU politicians still remember the days of turmoil with horror. It is now said in Brussels that this barrel will not be opened again.