Hungary and Poland are in danger of receiving nothing from the EU reconstruction fund

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Instead, the European Commission is now tightening the thumbscrews in coordination with the other countries: According to information from the FAZ, it is working flat out to put the 750 billion euro reconstruction fund into force excluding Poland and Hungary. Both countries would go away empty-handed.

Poland would lose 23.1 billion euros and Hungary 6.2 billion euros in grants. In relation to economic output, these are large sums. Above all, however, the way for the aid to be disbursed to the other 25 states would no longer be blocked. Different ways are being tested for this. The aim is to keep Poland and Hungary out of “de jure” or “de facto”.

The preferred model is based on the EU unemployment benefit “Sure” decided by the states at the beginning of the Corona crisis. The aid would thus be secured by voluntary guarantees from the states instead of directly via the EU budget as previously provided.

Poland and Hungary could participate, but of course they don’t have to. Ultimately, it is said that such participation would make no sense for them. In this case, the rule of law mechanism that they rejected would be introduced as planned.

This is possible because, unlike the budget and the reconstruction fund, the mechanism does not have to be passed unanimously. The aid from the fund was thus tied to compliance with the rule of law.

The Commission is also pursuing the approach of adopting the reconstruction fund excluding Poland and Hungary within the framework of enhanced cooperation. The EU treaties explicitly allow several states to advance in individual fields. Setting up a debt-financed fund on top of this is difficult, the commission says.

It was off the table to create the fund as an intergovernmental solution based on the model of the Euro rescue fund ESM without Poland and Hungary. The main problem with this solution is that it increased the debt level of the participating Member States.

Cuts, especially in structural aids

This would not solve the dispute over the budget framework for 2021 to 2027, however. Without an agreement, the EU will have to start the coming year with an emergency budget. A twelfth of the 2020 EU budget would be available to you per month. However, as less money is available for financing without a new budget framework, also because of the UK’s exit, only 135 to 140 billion euros could flow into promised projects in 2021 instead of the planned 166 billion euros, according to the commission.

That would also hit Poland and Hungary hard. Because there would be cuts in the structural aids that are of interest to them. Financing commitments for new structural funding projects would even be completely impossible.

If necessary, the Commission could present a budget proposal at the beginning of 2021 that paves the way for this, it says. Politically, however, there is hardly any will to help Poland and Hungary on this path.

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Will Viktor Orban block the European recovery?

In theory, Vikor Orban, Prime Minister of a Member State of barely 10 million inhabitants, is able to dictate the fate of 443 million Europeans. The Hungarian sent a letter at the end of last week to various executives, including Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, noting his blackmail.

Alone against all

“Although Hungary is committed to cooperation, in view of the latest developments it cannot provide the unanimity required for the package adopted in July” on the 2021-2027 European budget, as well as the 750 billion post-Covid recovery plan backed by the financial framework. These resources must imperatively be included in the finance bills of the 27 by the end of the year, so as to benefit from them as quickly as possible, from the beginning of 2021.

Viktor Orban rejects a provisional agreement, presented on November 6, to make the payment of European funds conditional on respect for the rule of law. This Thursday, November 12, the budget committee of the European Parliament must vote on this « protection of the Union budget in the event of a general failure of the rule of law in the Member States’, and they will have to finalize it.

According to the Hungarian news site Mandiner.hu which had access to Viktor Orban’s mail, the prime minister estimated that “The proposed sanction mechanism is based on vague legal definitions”, which in particular create “Opportunities for political abuse”, and “If this remains the case, the Hungarian government has no other choice but to reject the other elements of the (budgetary) package”.

The future of the European budget on hold

The draft mechanism provides, on a proposal from the Commission which observes a suspected violation of the rule of law, for the sanctions to be validated by the Council by qualified majority (15 Member States out of 27 representing at least 65% of the population European). The provisional agreement also introduces a remedy for the offending State, with a “Emergency brake” which allows the latter to explain to its partners the logic of the measures in question.

Poland, which does not threaten a veto, has also spoken out against this mechanism tied by Parliament and Germany to the rotating EU presidency, which was negotiating on behalf of the Twenty-Seven.

What mechanism to ensure respect for the rule of law in Europe?

Without the Hungarian green light, the 2021-2027 European budget is also on hold. After 12 transfers of bitter negotiations with the Council, the European Parliament obtained an additional 16 billion euros, which will complete the 1,824.3 billion euros provided for in the agreement of July 21 between heads of state.

Resources will be strengthened, in particular for the Erasmus program (+2.2 billion), health (+3.4 billion), border security (+1.5 billion) or humanitarian aid (+1 billion).

“If Viktor Orban wants to paralyze these European funds for everyone, let him explain his decision to the millions of workers, entrepreneurs, mayors and students who depend on them”, observes Manfred Weber, head of the PPE group (right), the best represented party in the European Parliament. In Brussels, we assure him, there will in any case be no negotiations “Reopened” on the rule of law to satisfy the Hungarian Prime Minister.

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European politicians warn the EU against interfering with lending

European Commission in Brussels

Brussels The topic of sustainability may have been overshadowed by the corona crisis this year, but it has not disappeared. On the contrary: in the summer, the EU Commission for the first time defined in a generally binding manner when an investment can be described as “green” and therefore sustainable.

The so-called taxonomy regulation was passed in July and sets standards worldwide. But what was implemented relatively smoothly in the first serve now leads to heated follow-up discussions in Brussels.

The focus is on the question of whether banks should be forced, as it were, through the lever of capital adequacy, to grant more “green” loans in order to help push the “green deal” promised by politicians.

In practice, this would mean that loans for sustainably operating companies would have to be backed with less equity than loans that do not meet these criteria. To a certain extent, there is a “green” factor that makes such financing cheaper or even more expensive for the banks.

The EU Commission wants to enforce exactly that. She sees taxonomy as a reliable decision-making aid for the financial market. “It will be instrumental in channeling investment into green and sustainable projects,” said Mairead McGuinness, Commissioner for Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union.

The rest of the schedule is tight. As part of the Taxonomy Regulation, the Commission was asked to present technical screening criteria through “delegated acts” in order to further develop the taxonomy.

The first two sets of criteria have already been published in a draft delegated act which is now open for feedback. The delegated act will then be subject to scrutiny by the European Parliament and the Council and will apply from January 2022.

EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness

As far as regulation for the banks is concerned, the critics are already forming. The MEP and CSU Deputy Chief Angelika Niebler told the Handelsblatt in Brussels: “If we start to intervene in the risk assessment of the banks, we risk a crisis like the bursting of the real estate bubble. That worries me a lot. “

The former Vice President of the Bundesbank, Franz-Christoph Zeitler, demands: “It should be made legally or politically binding that an application of the taxonomy to lending and thus a direct impact on SMEs is excluded.” He fears a “planned economy control of Economy”.

The banks have not yet fully agreed with this tenor. The fact that certain “green” loans could also become cheaper for the financial institutions is even met with approval. After all, regulators are already turning many other screws and putting the industry under pressure: “We are clearly in favor of lowering equity requirements across the board for financing sustainable investments and consumption,” explains Torsten Jäger, Head of Sustainability at the BdB private banking association in Germany. “Not because sustainable financing is inherently low-risk. But because it needs a strong political signal to quickly direct more capital into the sustainable restructuring of the economy. “

However, the BdB also limits the fact that the taxonomy can only be an orientation framework for what sustainable economic activities are. “From our point of view, it is not easily possible to apply it to a bank’s loan book.”

The EU Commission’s regulation has not yet been implemented. Discussions on the classification of the various industries are still ongoing. Only last Friday did the Commission start a public hearing to sharpen the criteria. The aim is to prevent possible greenwashing – that is, wrongly assigned “green” ratings.

The background to this is the booming market for sustainable investments, especially in Europe. The Taxonomy Ordinance has an appendix of over 600 pages. It regulates the industries from energy production to agriculture, from steel production to plastics production, from transport to construction. The finance industry also appears as an industry. The banks themselves sell sustainable investment products and green corporate bonds.

Warning against repetition of fiscal policy mistakes

With a view to a possible reign of politics in the banks and lending, Zeitler warns against repeating financial policy mistakes. In the years leading up to the 2007 financial crisis, the US attempted to influence risk assessment through well-intentioned political measures, namely through a guaranteed purchase of home loans by state-sponsored institutions regardless of their risk and then “packaging” these loans in structured securities.

The result was a large real estate bubble in the USA, which burst from 2007 with huge financial and social consequences. “In the same way, building a“ green financial bubble ”would not serve anyone today,” warns Zeitler.

Critics like Niebler and Zeitler demand more transparency when developing the detailed catalog of criteria. The responsible “platform for sustainable finance” should be taken out of the “democratic darkroom”, they demand.

“Fundamental decisions, for example whether the financing of natural gas projects or certain means of transport and building materials should be made significantly more expensive, must not be made solely by a committee and a delegated legal act of the Commission,” says European politician Niebler and demands: “Political decisions on Implementation of the taxonomy regulation must be discussed and decided in parliament. “

In addition, more representatives from business should be represented on the committee. So far representatives of civil society from the environmental sector and experts are overrepresented.

Last but not least, Niebler advocates an assessment on a global level. “In the end, proposals on taxonomy only make economic sense in the international financial markets if they are followed up within the framework of the OECD.”

More: Bundesbank President warns of “green” monetary policy,

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Corona: Why hundreds of EU officials get on planes every week

Christina Leiner watched the press conferences and video messages from Angela Merkel. She heard the request to minimize social contact and the request to refrain from any unnecessary travel. And yet she gets on a well-staffed Ryanair plane to Berlin every Friday evening in Brussels. She then flies back to Brussels on Sunday evening. Week after week, on the plane, on the subway, on the bus to the airport.

Leiner, who asked WELT AM SONNTAG not to use her real name, sees no other choice for herself. She works for the European Parliament in Brussels, from the start as a weekend home driver. Her husband works in Berlin, moving is out of the question for him for professional reasons. And so Leiner has come to terms with the pendulum.

So far, at least. Because even now, at the height of the second corona wave, according to information from WELT AM SONNTAG, hundreds of EU officials travel to Brussels every week to work from home there. The reason: The rules of the European institutions dictate it to employees.

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During the working week from Monday to Friday, officials and employees hired across Europe must be at their place of work. Even if you are not allowed into the office there.

Since mid-October, the corona measures in Belgium, which is particularly badly affected by the epidemic, have obligated all employees who are able to only work from home. Anyone who can work online should not come to work.

Parliamentarians are allowed to stay at home

The Europaviertel is therefore deserted and the European Parliament is largely closed. Employees only enter it in exceptional cases. When parliament meets next week, many seats in the plenary hall will remain free because a large number of parliamentarians only join in from their countries of origin. For the employees of the European Parliament and the other institutions, the following applies: Teleworking from the kitchen table must also take place in Brussels.

“Mobile work from outside the workplace is prohibited in principle,” confirms a spokeswoman for the EU commission WELT am SONNTAG. “This also applies to the place of origin.” For the majority of EU officials, this regulation is completely unproblematic: They live with their families in or around Brussels or Luxembourg, where large parts of the European institutions are also located.

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There are reasons for the strict home office rules, which are quite similar to those in the private sector: tax, insurance and, last but not least, the employer’s need to be able to call his employees back to work at any time. This is particularly true of the EU institutions, which recruit their staff from all over Europe, from the North Cape to Cyprus.

“If we open up again after six weeks of lockdown, we have to get things up and running again,” said a Parliamentary HR officer, explaining the procedure. “It cannot be that someone is stuck on a Greek island because there are no more planes.”

These are the lockdown strategies of the European states

Most European countries are already in partial lockdown, and Austria’s government is now following suit. But the measures do not seem to be sufficient everywhere. Some states are now tightening the rules again.

For weekend commuters like Leiner, the regulations are now a problem in the Corona period. The fact that it is not an isolated case is illustrated by the still well-occupied planes that take off Friday and Sunday from Brussels Airport, even if the number of connections has decreased dramatically here since the outbreak of the pandemic. The high-speed trains to Germany and France also continue to run, albeit far less often than before.

How many EU officials are affected can only be estimated; the institutions do not collect data on how many of their employees commute. They must state their place of residence at the place of employment as their place of residence.

“What Commission staff do at the weekend, for example commuting to a second home to spend time with their family, is their private matter, and the commission does not ask for such private information,” said the spokeswoman. This also applies to other EU institutions.

Up to five percent commute on the weekend

According to the budget for 2020, the EU institutions have 47,000 permanent or temporary employees. According to their information, around 33,000 people work for the EU Commission alone. From the staff of the European Parliament it is said that an estimated maximum of five percent of those employed in Brussels regularly commute home over the weekend.

Extrapolated that would mean hundreds of EU employees are affected by the rule. With a rough calculation with 47,000 employees, there would be up to 2,350 weekend commuters at the locations of the EU institutions.

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You are now faced with a choice in lockdown: either stay in your home office in Brussels and not see your partner and family for weeks – or continue commuting and expose yourself and others to an increased risk of infection. A not inconsiderable number of those affected should therefore commute. And this despite the fact that even ministerial meetings are taking place virtually again and national politicians are foregoing trips to Brussels.

Criticism of this situation comes from Berlin. “In order to prevent the further spread of the corona virus, the rule that full-time EU employees have to commute to Brussels to work from home should be overturned as quickly as possible,” demands Gerald Ullrich. The FDP politician is chairman of the Bundestag’s EU committee.

In view of the high number of people affected, exceptions to the pandemic are also being considered in Brussels. The General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union, the body in which the member states coordinate with one another, has come a long way: The administration already has special regulations for the current Covid phase.

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There, too, around 3,000 employees are only allowed to work from abroad in exceptional cases. “At the moment, however, we have overruled this regulation to a limited extent and allow employees to work mobile from abroad due to Covid-19 until the end of January,” says a spokesman. The supervisor has to agree in every single case.

In the EU Parliament, the works council is now also dealing with the problem. So far, employees there have only been able to work from abroad if relatives there need their help. But they have to work part-time, even if they otherwise have a full-time position. Because the expatriation allowance paid in Brussels no longer applies, some of those affected only receive 65 percent of their net salary.

Will working from home become the norm?

Never before have so many people worked from home as in the Corona period. Often because you can’t keep enough distance in the office. Federal Labor Minister Heil wants to keep this option in part even after the pandemic.

Source: WELT / Jan-Friedrich Funk

The EU Commission wants to enable its employees to work in their country of origin in December – but only in the week before Christmas and only if their supervisor allows it.

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We are happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.

WELT AM SONNTAG ET 22.11.2020 Packshot half page

Source: WELT AM SONNTAG

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“No hurdles for sharing abuse photos”

EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson has warned strongly against weakening the fight against the spread of photos and videos of abused children on the Internet. If there is no interim solution, there will soon be “no obstacles for pedophiles to upload and share,” said the Swede of the German press agency. She spoke of a “global disaster”. The background to this is that companies such as Facebook and Google messages sent via their services will soon no longer be allowed to scan with certain filters in the EU as things stand.

That is why Johansson is promoting the transitional arrangement. “I will never accept that the privacy of users is more important than the privacy of child victims.” It is of the utmost urgency that the EU states and the European Parliament come to an agreement by December 21st.

E-mails fall under the digital secrecy of letters

Because then the update of the code for electronic communication will take effect in the EU. Communication services such as e-mail or messenger programs will therefore in future fall under the EU’s digital confidentiality. Corporations such as Facebook, Google or Microsoft are no longer allowed to scan the messages via their mail and messenger services for abuse. So far, they have used certain technology to filter the messages sent to representations that are already known and have been provided with a type of digital fingerprint. According to its own information, the Federal Criminal Police Office also benefits from the information they receive in this way.

To enable this procedure to continue, the EU Commission proposed an interim solution in September. However, there are major reservations in the European Parliament and among data protectionists. Parliament still has to agree on its own position before it can start negotiations with the EU states.

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EU states criticize Hungary and Poland for blocking

Dhe European Ministers were the first representatives of the member states on Tuesday to deal with the new crisis caused by the budget blockade by Hungary and Poland. On Monday, both states, among the EU ambassadors, prevented the decision-making process on the EU budget for the next seven years and on the Corona aid fund. A new mechanism that combines money from the common fund with the rule of law is going too far for them. “It is not the time for vetoes, but for quick action in a spirit of solidarity,” said Michael Roth, as Minister of State for Europe in the Foreign Office, Chairman of the Council. “Our peoples would pay a very high price for a blockade.”

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

The discussion on this then took place in the public part of the meeting and conveyed an initial picture of the mood. Overall, there was a lot of support for the compromise that Germany had negotiated with the European Parliament – on the amount of funds and the rule of law. In the face of the Corona crisis, a “sense of community” was developed, said the Italian representative; “The more frustrated we are now”. He recalled how much the second corona wave was raging in Europe. A delay would have “serious effects on the economy and society”. One could not explain that to the citizens. The Spanish minister Pablo García-Berdoy expressed himself in a very similar way: “Those who block, have to bear the heavy responsibility for it, towards all Europeans.”

Criticism of the “frugal states”

Representatives of the so-called “frugal states” also spoke up. Denmark, for example, pointed out that the rule of law mechanism was an “integral part” of the July agreement between the heads of government that could not be separated now. Hungary and Poland denied this. They again claimed that it had been agreed at the time that sanctions could only be adopted unanimously, which, however, is not covered by the conclusions. Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga said the compromise circumvented the treaties. An instrument will be created arbitrarily, which anyway is only directed against Hungary.

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The Polish representative was also negative, but his tone was much more moderate. He only insisted on further guarantees that created legal certainty. Minister of State Roth admitted that there would definitely be “considerable delays” in the disbursement of the funds. You will “work very hard” to find a solution as soon as possible. Many Brussels actors are firmly convinced that the compromise negotiated with Parliament on the rule of law can no longer be opened.

Several MPs who had negotiated this categorically ruled that out. But there would also be considerable resistance among states, especially from the Dutch. The Hague had called for a strict rule of law mechanism and otherwise threatened a veto itself.

Horse trading with Article 7 procedure?

The states could of course meet Hungary and Poland elsewhere. When the EUR 1.8 trillion financial package was being negotiated by the heads of government in July, the Hungarian Viktor Orbán demanded that the Article 7 procedure to review the rule of law against his country be terminated. Poland is also demanding this for itself. At the time, Chancellor Angela Merkel said cautiously that the conditions for this were not yet in place. But the Council has long lacked the majority necessary to condemn Hungary for violating the rule of law or even to establish that this danger exists. The eastern states are unwilling to do this for different reasons.

That is why the presidencies, including the German one, have refrained from such a vote. So they were able to hold regular hearings on the situation in both countries, which at least left Budapest and Warsaw in the dock. But the situation is everywhere described as unsatisfactory. The European Parliament has therefore fought particularly hard to link the budget with the rule of law. Because that should be the sharper sword to put both countries in their place. But would MEPs Budapest and Warsaw allow the symbolic triumph? And, conversely, would that be enough for Orbán to give in?

Such questions are now being considered at the top levels of the institutions. It seems clear that the heads of state and government have to deal with the issue themselves. They want to discuss how to deal with the Corona crisis in a video conference on Thursday evening anyway. Now the financial blockade should move into focus.

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European Parliament and member states agree on EU budget

IIn the dispute over the funding of the long-term EU budget, the negotiators of the European Parliament and the member states reached a compromise. Among other things, the agreement provides for selected EU programs on topics such as research, health, youth and education to be provided with additional money, as MEPs and the German EU Council Presidency confirmed on Tuesday.

According to their own statements, MEPs negotiated a total of 16 billion euros more for their concerns than the governments of the member states actually wanted to provide. The current German EU Council Presidency expects that around 12.5 billion euros will be fresh money. Most of it is said to come from income from EU competition penalties that have so far flowed back to the member states.

The agreement is one of the prerequisites for the preparations for the planned EU Corona aid amounting to 750 billion euros to continue. They are to be made available in addition to the almost 1.1 trillion euros for the multiannual financial framework for the years 2021 to 2027.

Can the agreement really be financed?

It is now eagerly awaited whether all EU states will give the necessary approval to the so-called own funds decision. This formally regulates where the money should come from. The resolution and ratification are necessary so that the budget and the Corona program can actually be financed.

Hungary and Poland had recently threatened to block important EU decisions on the long-term Community budget if a new procedure to punish certain violations of the rule of law were introduced within the EU. To this end, negotiators negotiated a compromise last week, which was rejected in Hungary and Poland.

The new mechanism envisages that for the first time in the history of the European Union, EU funds could be cut on a large scale because of violations of the rule of law. Specifically, this should be the case, for example, if in the recipient country the courts responsible for possible reviews of the allocation of funds cannot act completely independently.

How the conflict with Hungary and Poland could be resolved is open. In both countries, the EU Commission, which is responsible for compliance with EU law, has long criticized that politics has too great an influence on courts. Criticism of this is, however, categorically rejected by the governments in Warsaw and Budapest.

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Lockdown of the EU Parliament provokes MPs

EU Parliament in Brussels

The administration of the EU Parliament only works with an emergency staff.

(Photo: dpa)

Brussels There is a yawning emptiness inside the EU Parliament this week. The European Parliament has suspended its parliamentary work in view of the corona situation in Belgium, which is difficult to control. Parliament President David Sassoli decided to cancel almost all parliamentary and committee meetings for the whole of November.

The administration of the EU Parliament only works with an emergency staff. Even the negotiations between Parliament, the Council and the Commission on the 1.8 trillion financial package can only take place physically on a very small scale.

The approach leads to sharp criticism, especially from the ranks of the CDU and CSU. “A parliament that is dissolved by its official representative loses its legitimacy. This damage to the only democratically elected European institution by you is unacceptable ”, warns the CSU politician in an email to the Italian EU Parliament President David Sassoli.

“Having served as a member of this prestigious house for over 26 years, I never thought I would witness this self-destruction.” All national parliaments have found ways to continue their work and serve their citizens. “As President of the European Parliament, you should do your best to make our work possible and not to hinder it,” said Ferber.

Union politicians are calling for a U-turn

The European politicians of the CDU / CSU in the European Parliament demand from Sassoli an end to the lockdown. “We absolutely want the possibility of all MEPs participating in the plenary sessions, parliamentary committee meetings and the trialogues on site in Brussels or via remote access, regardless of their location. In order to resume parliamentary work on site, we are ready to accept numerous precautions and restrictions, ”said David Caspary, head of the CDU / CSU group in the European Parliament, the Handelsblatt on Tuesday.

The CDU / CSU group has unanimously decided on a corresponding position paper, which is available to the Handelsblatt. It is suggested that only one member of parliament or one member of parliament can work in each member’s office in order to reduce the risk of infection.

“If European democracy is to function effectively as a marketplace for ideas, especially in times of crisis, this can only happen through personal and, above all, lively debates in the plenary of the European Parliament,” says the joint declaration.

The national parliaments had also succeeded in maintaining the debates among politicians in the plenary chamber while at the same time complying with the necessary hygiene measures. In addition, other parliaments in Brussels would continue to meet in attendance. CDU politician Caspary therefore demands: “Those MPs who have to or want to come to Brussels should also be able to attend meetings in the future.”

Greens and liberals also criticize the closure of the EU Parliament. “I have a democratic stomachache when we MEPs don’t meet for months. I therefore advocate a minimum of democratic exchange, ”said Anna Cavazzini, Chair of the Internal Market Committee in the European Parliament, on Tuesday.

“With purely digital plenary and committee meetings, not only are debates very limited, but all informal opportunities for Members to meet are excluded.” Finally, the national parliaments would also find a way to continue to meet physically. “The lockdown poses a problem for parliamentary work, especially when it comes to sensitive issues and difficult compromises,” confirms MEP and digital politician Moritz Körner (FDP).

The President of Parliament sees no alternative

But the parliamentary administration does not want to orient itself to the practice in the member states. In view of the dangerous pandemic situation in the Belgian capital, she sees no alternative to a new lockdown.

“In view of the worrying situation in connection with the spread of Covid-19, especially in Brussels, where four percent of the population are currently infected each month (and the trend is rising), and to avoid health risks for the members of the European Parliament, its staff and other persons “, the President decided,” that ordinary and extraordinary meetings of the governing bodies of Parliament, the plenary, the committees and the political groups in November can only be attended remotely without the physical presence of any person other than the respective chair, the indispensable staff of the secretariat and the for the technical support indispensable staff may take place ”, it says in an internal letter of the parliament administration.

How things will continue after November is unclear. “The situation will be reassessed against the background of future developments and subject to further decisions by the President,” says the lengthy statement to the MPs.

Belgium is the most dangerous country in Europe in Corona times, because Belgium, with its 11.5 million inhabitants, mourns over 120 deaths per day. Data from the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) show 1,735 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the past two weeks.

For comparison: In Germany, which is almost eight times larger, there were only 215 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the same period. The European Parliament already experienced a lockdown when the pandemic broke out in spring. Since the spring, the EU representation has not held its meetings in Strasbourg, the official headquarters of Parliament. France protested the precautionary measure in vain.

Meanwhile, Sassoli’s decision is well received by employees in the EU Parliament. “So far, the majority of the MEPs have worked from home and never came to Brussels,” says an employee in Brussels. “That worked well. The current decision is therefore not a major disadvantage for the work. ”In Corona times, working is difficult for the parliamentarians anyway. Because, in contrast to the imposing entrance halls, the offices are narrow. Even before Corona, numerous employees were already working from home.

The lockdown in Brussels also has financial disadvantages for MPs. Because there is an attendance fee of around 320 euros per day of meetings in Brussels and Strasbourg. The attendance list for European politicians to withdraw their daily allowances is no longer available until at least the end of November.

“I think it is right not to pay out the daily allowances so that there are no additional incentives to travel there,” said the Green MP Cavazzini, welcoming the President of the Parliament’s decision and knowing that not all of the more than 700 members of parliament hold this opinion.

More: Dispute over EU budget escalates

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Belarusian opposition wins Sakharov Prize, antechamber of Nobel Peace Prize

There could be no more political choice. The democratic opposition in Belarus won the 2020 Sakharov Prize, against the two other finalists the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul in Iraq, Monsignor Najeeb Moussa Michaeel, and the repressed environmental activists from Guapinol in Honduras.

→ ANALYSIS. In Belarus, women at the heart of the protest

The sesame is timely, three days before the end of the ultimatum to President Alexander Lukashenko. The opposition, mobilized for weeks in the street, has given him until October 25 to withdraw, otherwise it will call for a monster demonstration and a general strike.

Support for sanctions

“They have one thing on their side that brute force can never overcome: the truth. Do not give up your fight. We are at your side ”, tweeted the President of the European Parliament, the Italian David Sassoli.

Defended by the three parties forming the majority in the European Parliament, the EPP (right), S & D (social democrats) and Renew Europe (liberals), this candidacy had every chance of winning, unlike its competitors carried by minority groups.

→ READ. “The Belarusian people have taken a huge step forward”

This choice confirms the foreign policy of the European Union, which has already sanctioned 40 officials of the Belarusian regime, including the Minister of the Interior and his deputy, accused of being involved in the repression and rigging of the presidential election of August 9. The Twenty-Seven are now considering sanctioning Alexander Lukashenko himself.

The prize specifically rewards the Coordination Council, an initiative launched by several women including Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa, (leader of the opposition) and Svetlana Aleksievitch (winner of the Nobel Prize, but in literature, in 2015). More broadly, it is “Support the courage and bravery of its civil society”, said Estonian MEP Urmas Paet, member of Renew Europe. For Dutch S&D MP Kati Piri, the award should help “Put an end to authoritarian repression on the European continent”.

→ EXPLANATION. Belarus: Alexander Lukashenko tries a new strategy

Belarus has held a prominent place in the awarding of the prize since its creation in 1988. Already in 2004, the MEPs awarded the Belarusian Association of Journalists for their fight for freedom of expression. And in 2006, they crowned Alexander Milinkevich, figure of the democratic opposition, candidate against President Alexander Lukashenko, the year of his award.

The strength of a network

The prize, materialized in the form of a frame bearing the name of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1975, will be officially presented at a solemn ceremony in the hemicycle of the European Parliament , December 16, 2020. The recipients will receive € 50,000, but will receive much more, as a new member of a large community known to be the antechamber of the Nobel Peace Prize.

In all, eight laureates received the double distinction, including Nelson Mandela (Sakharov in 1988, Nobel in 1993), or Aung San Suu Kyi (Sakharov in 1990, Nobel in 1991) – although the latter was excluded from the community. Sakharov in September for “His inaction and his acceptance of the ongoing crimes against the Rohingya community”.

Among the doubly titled personalities, we still find the Pakistani lawyer Malala Yousafzai, who opposed the Taliban when they tried to ban the education of girls (Sakharov in 2013, Nobel in 2014), the gynecologist Denis Mukwege, in Democratic Republic of Congo (Sakharov in 2014, Nobel in 2018), or Nadia Murad, Iraqi activist from the Yazidi community massacred by Daesh (Sakharov in 2016, Nobel in 2018). Of all these laureates, only Kofi Annan had been “Nobelized” (2001) before being “Sakharovisé” (2003).

Since 2008, this community has been committed to working in a network to “Promote joint efforts on behalf of human rights defenders around the world, through joint actions”. It met in conference in 2008, 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2018 to denounce human rights violations.

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When will we see the billions of the recovery plan?

“The big challenge is to deploy the credits. Territories, citizens, businesses and associations must feel the effects of the recovery plan, from the first six months ”, insisted the budget rapporteur Laurent Saint-Martin (LREM), while the deputies had started on Monday, October 26 the examination of the recovery plan as part of the discussions on the 2021 budget.

→ ANALYSIS. Coronavirus crisis: small counterparts for the recovery plan

Presented on September 3 by the government as ” historical », The recovery plan, adopted by a show of hands by the deputies with the support of the LR right on the night of Monday 26 to Tuesday 27 October, amounts to 100 billion euros and should allow France to regain the pre-crisis activity level in 2022. No less than 40% of the plan is to be funded by the European Union (EU), but discussions between the European Council and the European Parliament on the 2021-2027 European budget pose a threat to the arrival of funds.

Concerns about European funds

The agreement reached in extremis during the summer on the recovery plan of 750 billion euros is slipping, due to ongoing negotiations between the European Council and the European Parliament on the subject of the 2021-2027 European budget. MEPs want to increase the EU budget by around 40 billion euros, which governments refuse.

The two subjects being linked, no release of funds from the recovery plan is possible without a definitive compromise on the budget, and negotiations are progressing too slowly for the moment to hope for an agreement on January 1, 2021.

Once the agreement has been obtained, we will have to wait for the European Commission to raise a loan and pay the first subsidies to the Member States after validation of their respective recovery plans. In practice, the grants are expected to reach states by summer 2021 at the earliest.

Horizon 2022

At the national level, of the 100 billion announced from 2020 to 2022, 22 billion should be released in 2021. Several priorities are put forward, including the energy renovation of buildings, support for clean energies, aid for the relocation of projects industrialists, safeguarding employment with partial unemployment and vocational training and helping young people to integrate.

→ MAINTENANCE. Élisabeth Borne: “We will not let the youth down”

It remains to ensure the effective implementation of the plan. This is the meaning of the circular relating to ” territorialization of the recovery plan », Published on October 23, which sets out the methods of implementation on the ground. So, ” the deconcentrated credits of the recovery plan, as well as the actions of the plan which can be located in a given region and are liable to co-financing “Must be entered, by the end of the year, in” a regional revival agreement ».

As of October 24, 2020, a memorandum of understanding was signed by Jean Castex and Renaud Muselier, president of the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur region: presented as the ” first brick »Of the recovery plan, it allows the launch of a series of projects, including modernization work on dams or the creation of combined rail-road platforms, for a total amount of 64 million euros.

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