30 April 2020
In a Statement to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament have requested the inclusion of a mandatory “Recovery Test” for each single policy initiative into the revised Commission Working Programme 2020.
“The 2020 Commission Work Programme has been overtaken by events. The tragic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic mean it must be substantially re-written”, state the two conservative Co-Chairmen Raffaele Fitto and Ryszard Legutko in the letter.
“Measures that deal with the COVID-19 pandemic must be the first priority, especially given that the crisis is far from over and that a second wave of infections remains a possibility that would further worsen the ongoing economic and social crisis.
“The second priority must be to take steps to assist economic and social recovery. Every new proposal or initiative this year must meet a ‘recovery test’. Nothing must be allowed to impede the recovery and anything that fails this new ‘recovery test’ must be delayed, postponed, or cancelled altogether.”
Specifically, the shape of the European Green Deal should be reconsidered, believes the ECR Group. It should now focus on items that would help the recovery and facilitate the transition to ‘Industry 4.0’, such as digitalisation and progress on the circular economy. Some of its most demanding elements, such as the European Climate Law, should be postponed as they will inevitably place great stress on businesses at a time when they need to be focusing on recovery.
“The European economy needs to be revived before new costs and demands are imposed”, Mr. Fitto and Mr. Legutko said.
The statement reads:
Dear President von der Leyen,
As you have confirmed, the 2020 Commission Work Programme has been overtaken by events. The tragic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic mean it must be substantially re-written.
On behalf of the ECR Group, we would like to share with you a statement adopted by our Bureau that outlines our thoughts about the form the new Work Programme should take.
The statement addresses some of the urgent issues that need tackling, including specific measures to introduce greater flexibility into funding programmes so that resources can be mobilised as quickly as possible with as little bureaucratic delay as possible.
The statement then lists key priorities for a new Work Programme for the remainder of the year ahead.
We believe every Commission initiative should be guided by a new ‘Recovery Test’.
The ‘Recovery Test’ would mean asking of every single legislative or policy initiative: does the measure include anything that would impede Europe’s economic recovery by imposing burdens or distractions for any sector that should be trying to focus on reconstructing sales and rebuilding revenue streams? Anything that fails this new ‘recovery test’ by imposing regulatory burdens or costs must be delayed, postponed, or cancelled altogether.
Specifically, the shape of the European Green Deal must be reconsidered. It should now focus on items that would help the recovery and facilitate the transition to ‘Industry 4.0’, such as digitalisation and progress on the circular economy. Some of its most demanding elements, such the European Climate Law, should be postponed as they will inevitably place great stress on businesses at a time when they need to focus on recovery. The European economy needs to revive before new costs and demands are imposed.
We would be grateful for your consideration of this initiative and the use of the ‘Recovery Test’ as part of your work to redraft the Work Programme.
Ryszard LEGUTKO MEP Raffaele FITTO MEP
ECR Group Co-Chairmen
1. Political position
1.1 Towards the start of the Work Programme 2020, the Commission asserted that “after years of crisis management, Europe can now look forward again”. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU must now unavoidably return to crisis management. The existing Work Programme is, therefore, largely redundant.
1.2 Measures that deal with the COVID-19 pandemic must be the first priority, especially given that the crisis is far from over and that a second wave of infections remains a possibility that would further worsen the ongoing economic and social crisis.
1.3 The second priority must be to take steps to assist economic and social recovery. Every new proposal or initiative this year must meet a ‘recovery test’. Nothing must be allowed to impede the recovery and anything that fails this new ‘recovery test’ must be delayed, postponed, or cancelled altogether.
2. Supporting the fight against COVID-19: immediate steps
2.1 There are specific actions that the Commission should take immediately, ahead of re-drafting the Work Programme such as:
2.2 The most important immediate actions the Commission could undertake relate to the financial support available to Member States. The priority for the 2020 budget must be to re-target funds to tackle the COVID-19 emergency, particularly on the regions most affected but also bearing in mind that the lockdowns have had major economic and social consequences in many areas across the EU. Given the unexpected urgency of the crisis, great flexibility is required to mobilise all available resources as quickly as possible, such as for example:
3. Starting the economic and social recovery of Europe
3.1 In re-drafting the 2020 Work Programme, all initiatives must be judged in light of the ‘recovery test’. The revised Work Programme should focus on six priorities:
3.2 It is essential that Commission recognises that major changes to the regulatory environment that increase the demands on businesses have significant time and resource implications, especially for SMEs. In the current crisis, businesses must be allowed the space to adapt to the new situation, reconstruct their sales and rebuild revenue streams without facing the distraction of trying to deal with new burdens or participating in public consultations. The shape of the European Green Deal, for example, must be reconsidered. It should now focus on items that would help the recovery and facilitate the transition to ‘Industry 4.0’, such as digitalisation and progress on the circular economy. Some of its most demanding elements, such the European Climate Law, should be postponed. All additional sectoral legislation should be delayed.
3.3 The centrepiece of a revised MFF proposal must be a new Recovery Fund. The Commission should start work on a contingency simplification plan that will enter into force as soon as possible in terms of reorientation and reinforcements of existing instruments. As part of the recovery process, greater investment in infrastructure, innovation, research & development is essential.
3.4 The communications for ‘A new Industrial Strategy for a globally competitive, green and digital Europe’ and ‘An SME Strategy for a sustainable and digital Europe’ are now obsolete in their current form and should be withdrawn. A revised industrial strategy is required. It should include proposals to incentivise re-shoring the production of key supplies, particularly medicines and medical equipment, and to invest in the strategic production of such items within the EU in order to achieve greater security, resilience and independence by diversifying supply chains.
Measures taken by Member States should not compromise the internal market or facilitate unfair competitive advantages. The Commission should ensure that state aid is not misused.
Internal border controls are of course permitted in the Schengen area when required. Where these have been introduced, these should be respected as long as the Member State concerned considers that there is a health necessity to do so.
The crisis has also underlined the importance of addressing digital exclusion for certain social groups as part of the recovery. Measures to support the elderly and families, especially where family members are primary carers, and steps to address Europe’s demographic weaknesses are also required.
It is important to ensure that reliable and quality food supplies from European agriculture and fisheries continue during and beyond the COVID-19 crisis. This will require support for these sectors to safeguard production and barrier-free transport across the Single Market.
3.5 External border controls are an important tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Migration must therefore be limited and the external borders must be secure to ensure the good functioning of the Schengen area.
3.6 The European Union must work closely with partners in the G7 and G20 to rebuild supply chains and markets. Unjustifiable protectionist measures must be opposed. The EU must develop a coherent and coordinated industrial policy mechanism to challenge anti-competitive practices by third parties.
3.7 The revised Work Programme should include a review of external relations that should include a profound reassessment of the EU’s relationship with China and the way the EU deals with coordinated disinformation by third countries. The EU should conduct its own independent and thorough investigation into the disinformation campaigns that have been undertaken and call for an internationally coordinated inquiry on this issue.
The EU should also insist that the immediate focus on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic does not create room for undemocratic and authoritarian states to intensify actions against the EU and against their own citizens. It is vital that any measures to fight the virus based on collecting personal data and individual tracking are strictly temporary and do not open the door to permanent or a long-term state-surveillance using the data collected.
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