Recovery plan: the very revealing vote in the European Parliament

 

The outbursts of voices from the July European Council have left their mark. The rift between the frugal countries and the others was not erased by a wave of the magic wand despite the final compromise. In this respect, the vote that took place this week in the European Parliament on the Council’s proposal on the Union’s “own resources” is very revealing.

This decision is both to allow the Commission to borrow the 750 billion euros of the recovery plan and to repay this loan through the creation of new taxes. The frugals (the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Denmark and Finland) would have preferred that the repayment be made by increasing the contributions of the Member States to the European budget. They gave up this idea under pressure from all the others, with France and Germany in the lead. The EU will therefore provide itself with “new own financial resources” from taxpayers who, for the moment, largely escape (the Gafam) or pollute (the carbon tax at the borders, the ETS system).

Read also European Recovery Plan: a gesture towards the frugals

Renew does not block
The decision was comfortably approved by 455 votes. There were 146 against. And 88 abstained. But the most interesting thing is that the votes are broken down by political family and nationality.

The liberal group Renew, of which Emmanuel Macron is one of the leading leaders, was not able to gather unanimously behind this choice: 21 Renew deputies voted “against”. Thus, when it comes to a new tax, the 7 German MEPs of the FDP show a red card. Out of ideological coherence, they are allergic to any new tax, in Germany as in Europe.

The Scandinavians resist
The MEPs from the frugal countries have not digested the capitulation of their leaders at the European Council. While Mark Rutte (Netherlands), Stefan Lofvën (Sweden), Sebastian Kurz (Austria), Mette Frederiksen (Denmark) and, to a lesser extent, Sanna Marin (Finland) finally gave in to pressure from the Macron-Merkel tandem, their representatives in the European hemicycle are resisting. The four friends of Mark Rutte, leader of the VVD, did not endorse his decision, as did four other Danish MPs from the Vernst party, nor the Swedes. We find the same opposition from the Scandinavians in the ten negative votes registered in the EPP (the Christian Democrats), with a strong Swedish contingent.

Read also Von der Leyen tackles Europe’s backwardness

Among the French, the opponents of the recovery plan, and moreover of any new associated resource, are mainly on the extreme right. Thus, all the French deputies of the Rassemblement National voted against it.

The LR abstain from taking a position
Abstentionists mark on this subject an embarrassment, a discomfort, a dissatisfaction. The LR MEPs all abstained, except François-Xavier Bellamy who voted ‘against’ and Nathalie Colin-Oesterlé (LR-Les Centristes) who voted ‘for’. Bellamy expressed his discomfort with a recovery plan that would put the debt on the shoulders of future generations. But how could we do otherwise? No obvious solution, so at best we abstain. Some “death in the soul”. No one can be happy about taking on a debt over 30 years. If good management should have been the general rule everywhere in Europe, this is not the case and it is too late anyway. This pandemic will mow down already highly indebted European economies (France, Italy, Spain, Greece…). Frugal countries are grumbling, but the damage is done.

Read also Digital tax: Paris urges Brussels to act in early 2021

In a few weeks, the national parliaments will have to position themselves by a vote. The debates in the Tweede Kamer (the lower house of the Dutch parliament) will be particularly important to follow given the very fragile majority of Mark Rutte’s composite government on European issues. It would only take one national parliament out of the 27 to deny the Commission the right to borrow (by raising the own resources ceiling) for the whole scaffolding of the so-called “Next Generation EU” recovery plan to collapse. Will the Dutch dare to take responsibility for this?

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