COVID-19 exposes the truth about the European Parliament

The EU’s usefulness will be evaluated by voters based on the efficiency of its financial aid during the pandemic, writes Jędrzej Bielecki, foreign affairs columnist at Rzeczpospolita

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Jędrzej Bielecki

Close to a year after the pandemic’s start, the European Union still has not paid out emergency aid to those in need. For many voters, this is the test of the EU’s usefulness.
The position of MEP has always been an attractive one. But in the uncertain times in which we are living, it has special advantages. Millions of Europeans are facing the threat of losing their jobs; hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs are fearing bankruptcy; and Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and other leaders are reaching difficult compromises just to save the EU. Meanwhile, MEPs can present radical and media-friendly postulates without any responsibility before their voters and without fear of losing their income.
This is what happened once again on Wednesday, regarding the rule of law. However, the Union will not be held accountable by the citizens of Europe. The evaluation of the EU’s usefulness will be decided by the efficiency of its work in response to the deepest crisis since the Second World War. And this test has not been going very well, thus far.
In the United States, Congress passed a pandemic aid program (CARES Act) worth USD 2.2 trillion in March. Now it is preparing another one to the tune of USD 1 trillion. Close to one year after the appearance of the coronavirus, no one has seen any of the recovery funds. And we won’t be seeing them for a long time. Projects to date in Brussels, such as the Sure Aid package (EUR 100 billion) or the lines of credit of the European Investment Bank for companies (EUR 200 billion), are on another scale entirely. The European Recovery Fund, which has been boasted about for months now, is meant to be a breakthrough. It is comprised of grants worth some EUR 390 billion and preferential loans worth another EUR 360 billion.
Yet, close to one year after the appearance of the coronavirus, no one has seen any of the recovery funds. And we won’t be seeing them for a long time. Despite the compromise reached at the December 10 EU summit, the agreement still has a long road ahead of it. It must be ratified by not only the European Parliament but also all 27 member states. This usually takes about two years due to procedures in the country that has the worst track record in Europe in handling the pandemic – Belgium. Here, seven parliaments must decide.
For many, the aid from Brussels will come too late: companies will have already gone bankrupt and the unemployed will have gone without income for too long a time. Due to the extraordinary circumstances, the ratification process is expected to be much faster. But even if this is the case, it will not activate a flood of grants immediately. That requires Brussels to confirm programs for use of the funds. This condition was put forward, in particular, by the Netherlands, who chooses not to remember how it used its access to the markets of Southern Europe during times of prosperity or how it stole fiscal income from its neighbors by building a tax haven.
Meanwhile, national governments could not wait this long. Therefore, each of them have launched their own aid programs based on their capabilities. In the case of Germany, this was worth over EUR 500 billion. Because other countries cannot afford such generosity, it has had a terrible effect on the single market where the same rules of competition are meant to apply to everyone.
For many, the aid from Brussels will come too late: companies will have already gone bankrupt and the unemployed will have gone without income for too long a time.
Will voters finally demand explanations from MEPs in an act of desperation? Perhaps they will even replace them? That would be very good for the future of integration.


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