Written by Ralf Drachenberg,
Does the 2021‑2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF) represent an evolution for the EU or déjà vu? On 14 April 2021, the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) hosted an online policy round table with the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, discussing exactly this question. The first of two online policy roundtables to examine the recent negotiations on the 2021‑2027 MFF, the discussion concentrated on the lessons learned from the negotiations, as well as what the outcome delivers for citizens. There are at least four take-aways from the discussions.
1. Centrality of the European Council
All participants agreed that the centrality of the European Council in the discussions was clearly a case of ‘déjà vu’, as EU Heads of State or Government have always been heavily involved in long-term EU budget negotiations, as national governments have to provide the majority of the funding. While some argued that the role of the European Council has become more influential in recent years, others predicted that any alternative scenario in the current order of the European Union would be unlikely, as MFF negotiations are likely to remain forever Chefsache.
2. Important developments
At the same time, this round of MFF negotiations included important evolutionary elements for both EU integration and EU governance. One of the most important evolutionary aspects was the increase of the own resources ceiling. This clearly has the potential to radically change the EU’s own resources system, a point which was stressed both by the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, (S&D, Italy) and by Jim Cloos, Secretary General, Trans-European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA) and former Deputy Director-General in the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. Another evolution was the new Recovery and Resilience Facility, and the possibility for the EU to borrow money on the markets. Participants agreed that another evolution in these MFF negotiations was the recalibration of ‘traditional’ alliances on the MFF, unravelling the two formerly solid blocks of net contributors and net beneficiaries.
3. An MFF agreement born out of crisis
Participants concurred that the agreement on the 2021‑2027 MFF was historic, but that it needs to be placed in the correct political and economic context, as it was clearly a result of the Covid‑19 crisis. In the view of Brigid Laffan, Director of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute, the MFF agreement showed how the EU as an organisation has learned from previous crises and as a result, the EU’s response was a lot less intergovernmental and rather more a collective agreement between the EU‑27 and the EU institutions. The discussions also aligned around the fact that Brexit had a positive effect on the MFF agreement, because there would have been no supranational instruments for the Covid‑19 recovery with the United Kingdom as an EU member.
4. What will the future bring?
While there was debate about the extension of qualified majority voting in the Council, most participants agreed that the Conference on the future of Europe could provide an ideal moment to take further steps towards EU integration in the budgetary field. One possibility would be to build on the achievements of the European Parliament, notably the legally binding agenda for the introduction of new own resources. Another possibility would be to find ways to make the evolutionary element of borrowing money on the markets more permanent, as requested by Antonio Tajani (EPP, Italy), Chair of the European Parliament’s Conference of Committee Chairs and Chair of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs. In his view, in order to face future crises, the EU needs the continuation of the SURE programme, a strong EU4Health programme, a modern EU industrial policy and a reform of the EU decision-making process.
To engage EU leaders in the discussions on the Conference on the future of Europe and create the necessary political buy in, EPRS Policy Analyst Ralf Drachenberg, suggested a similar initiative to the 2019 series of plenary debates with EU Heads of State or Government on the future of Europe.
More information on the 2021‑2027 MFF negotiations.
Moderated by Astrid Worum, Head of the EPRS European Council Oversight Unit, the event was very well attended, with close to 300 participants. Those who missed the event can watch the recording or read the EPRS in depth analysis on The role of the European Council in negotiating the 2021‑2027 MFF praised by all speakers for its relevance and high quality. The second EPRS event on the 2021‑2027 will take place on 4 May 2021 at 13:30‑15:00.
Conference on the Future of Europe: https://futureu.europa.eu/