I welcome today's proposal on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework and the Commission's significant effort to come up with an EU budget fit for the future. The proposal contains many constructive elements for a Europe that protects, empowers and defends, yet, on one crucial point, I would have preferred a more daring and ambitious plan.
I remain convinced that the current ceiling for EU expenditure has to be increased to 1.3% of GNI to face the growing EU agenda.
Indeed, the MFF is not a book-keeping exercise, it is a political act. It is about providing, or not providing, the European Union with the means to deliver its agenda: a sustainable future for 500 million citizens.
The Commission's proposal is a good starting point but there needs to be an additional effort and courage in setting the total amount.
I fully support the Commission's proposal on the own resources, building upon the work of the Monti High-Level Group. New, genuine own resources (revenues from the Emissions Trading System, tax on plastic, tax on corporations (CCCTB)), are a strong vehicle to counteract the global impact on the environment and also, more generally, a powerful addition to the EU budget, more needed than ever.
Genuine own resources would help to put an end to the debate focusing on net balances ("juste retour" principle) that must be abandoned as it is contrary to the values of solidarity and mutual benefit which underpin European integration. It is a very good first step forward.
I hope that the Council and the European Parliament will now increase the own resources rather than decrease them.
Again, deciding on the future EU budget is a political act, not an administrative one. Therefore, I welcome the growing investment in the research, innovation and digital fields, but also in youth (mainly Erasmus), security and EU borders and, more globally, in external action. I also welcome the new instruments for a stable EMU (a new reform support programme and a European investment stabilisation function), although many details remain to be clarified.
The conditionality issue. It is clear to me that the support provided through the European budget to Member States should itself be subject to greater conditionality; in particular beneficiaries should respect Community rules and the rule of law.
As EESC President, I refuse however to choose between the "newer" and "older" priorities.
If we want a Europe that delivers then we have no option but to provide the means to address transnational and common challenges.
European cohesion, the European social model and the Common Agricultural Policy have worked well. They do not deserve such drastic cuts. These policies and tools have proved their resilience and added value during a difficult crisis. Europe must, at all costs, continue to protect the most disadvantaged regions and the most vulnerable social groups.
The 20 principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights that have been adopted only seven months ago in Gothenborg have to be properly implemented and appropriate financial resources must be available to make the Pillar a reality.
In the same vein, I note that sustainable development is duly enshrined in the Commission proposal. It is of the utmost importance that the EU maintains its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals: the 2030 Agenda must remain the EU's horizontal priority and this has to become more evident.
There are two further points on which we await specific documents: the future of EFSI, which is a key instrument for the sustainable growth of the EU, and the precise funding of the migration policy.
The Commission's proposal for the MFF is only the start of a fundamental political debate on the EU's budget post-2020. Its final adoption will clarify whether the EU of the future will be able to achieve our common goals and uphold our values, let alone our dreams. The sooner, the better.
In the coming weeks, the EESC will prepare a comprehensive position on the MFF. It will remain vigilant and pro-active, and will make no concessions with regard to the Committee's priorities. This work will start with the High-level conference on 15 May.