July 23, 2020 / 11:24 AM / 11 days ago

EU parliament to push for tweaks in recovery plan, long-term budget

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Parliament will push for more of the EU recovery package to be spent on research and development, health and education and for a clearer link between economic aid and observing the rule of law, deputies said on Thursday.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and European Parliament president David-Maria Sassoli greet each-other with an elbow bump during a plenary session on the conclusions of the extraordinary European Council meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium July 23, 2020. Francois Walschaerts/Pool via REUTERS

In their first debate on the agreement struck by EU leaders on a 750 billion euro (683 billion pounds) pandemic stimulus and a common 2021-27 budget of 1.074 trillion euros this week, many members of the EU assembly said they would fight for changes.

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.

“I am happy about the agreement but I am not happy about the deal,” said Manfred Weber, who leads the biggest, centre-right parliamentary group, EPP.

“We think the MFF (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 said.

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.

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.

“We have to be clear on this. We need a roadmap for implementing the clear principle: no money without respecting European rules and mechanisms,” said Weber.

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.

Reporting by Jan Strupczewski and Kate Abnett; Editing by Nick Macfie

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