EU treads a tightrope dealing with Juncker plan


The European Parliament (EP) discussed last month, April 20th, the European Strategic Investment Fund (EFSI) known as the core of the Plan Juncker, but it rejected it because of the “cuts” supposed on the allocations for research and transport. The Fund is part of a plan aimed to mobilize more than €315 billion both in private and public investment, thereby facilitating economic recovery, job creation and long-term growth and competitiveness. The Fund will especially support strategic investments, such as broadband and energy networks, as well as smaller companies with fewer than 3000 employees.

The Industry and Transport committees of the EP made clear a week earlier that the investment plan of the Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker could not be financed through the budget already allocated for Research & Development (R&D) and infrastructures. Both committees had approved in separate vote the guidelines of the EFSI, but not its funding strategy, which involves subtracting funds already allocated for R&D and infrastructure.

The European Commission (EC) proposed to allocate funds to EFSI, notably 3.3 billion that would be taken from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), in particular energy, infrastructure, transport and telecommunications, plus €2.7 billion from the Horizon 2020 budget. Of the total planned, € 21 billion will be available for the EFSI as leverage to attract private investors. This amount shall consist of a guarantee provided by the EU (€16 billions), and the European Investment Bank (€5 billion).

MEPs claim that the future investment plan will cut demand and planned programs as well as financial alternatives. Eider Gardiazabal, S&D spokesperson on budgetary issues, said her group “fully backs the EU guarantee of €16bn granted to the EIB, to allow them to conduct riskier operations under the EFSI”.

But the financing of the €8bn for the guarantee fund cannot be financed at the expense of existing programmes. A rejection supported by MEPs from all parties in the Committees MEPs who have studied the plan and from which there have been 1,400 amendments that try to modify the initial project of President Juncker.

In the meantime, the protests have mostly expanded among several sectors. Peter Tindermans, secretary general of EuroScience, an umbrella group for research professionals, said it undermines trust. “Scientists and technologists have been geared up to an increased commitment by the EU to research and innovation. Cuts represent a breach of trust,” he told the The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

MEPs refused to finance a guarantee by reallocating existing funds in the EU budget , which they insisted should be filled gradually “covered through the annual budgetary procedure” until it reaches the required €8bn and must reassure investors by being “irrevocable and unconditional“.

The initial objective is that negotiations between the institutions are resolved in time to adopt the regulation by June, so that the Fund can be fully up and running in autumn.

J.I. García /P. Sendín