Repair and Prepare / Recovery and Resilience / Nextgeneration EU

Policy op-ed by Claire Roumet

No, this is not a crossword or a list of possible hashtags but the names of the proposals made by the European Commission on 27th May to resolve the current crisis. Or, more specifically, the names of some of these proposals, as over 28 texts have been presented. This capacity to respond to the challenge at hand is as impressive as the amounts put on the table: hundreds of billions of euros. Equally impressive is the fact that a number of dogmas, including the one on public debt, have crumbled.

It is not easy to provide an in-depth analysis of so many initiatives. A broad outline, however, can be given. First, there is a genuine desire to green the EU economic and cohesion programmes, but without having the means or the time to enshrine new fundamental principles in the texts. Much is said about the importance of resilience and the energy transition but when it comes to describing the evaluation criteria for accepting, or not, the national recovery plans… all the talk is about the economy.

Secondly, due to the urgency of the situation, the Commission has had to rely on existing, or already adopted, proposals to rapidly bail out the EU’s economy, thus limiting the capacity of these programmes to support a shift towards a system based on limited resources and aimed at carbon neutrality.

Lastly, simply opening the financial floodgates will not be enough to ensure that local players will benefit from this manna or that society as a whole is sufficiently mobilised to build future resilience.  … This is the main failing with these proposals: they essentially reinforce what is called the “European Semester”, a negotiation between the European Commission’s services and senior officials from the Ministries of Finance or Economy of each Member State. This severely limits the possibility for stakeholders to be associated with the post-crisis strategy-making process or with shaping the future that these hundreds of billions of euros are supposed to finance.

In a nutshell, these are fine words, not necessarily meaningless, but yet not really “anchored” in the legislative process, leaving the European Parliament, and local stakeholders, who are supposed to be the primary beneficiaries of this “recovery”, with a marginal role to play. No revolution could be expected from a European institution, and admittedly efforts have been made to integrate the transition in the recovery plan. But it will require more than Business As usual to seriously meet the social and climate challenges whilst ensuring a liveable and desirable future for the “nextgeneration EU”.