Brussels (Brussels Morning) – Our united response to Russia’s ongoing invasion is a testament to the increased awareness that showing solidarity with the Ukrainian people also means protecting the values and principles on which the European Union is founded.
At the same time, we must be aware of the significant economic cost of the crisis, which will be felt unevenly among the Member States and which could generate, if not properly addressed, dangerous internal divisions capable of eroding our cohesion. This is exactly the scenario Putin hoped for. We cannot and must not allow this to happen.
For this reason, building on the tried and tested design of the Next Generation EU programme, the 5 Star Movement has proposed the creation of an “Energy Recovery Fund”. Such a package of extraordinary measures would, on the one hand, compensate European households and businesses, especially in the sectors most affected by the price increase of energy and raw materials, and on the other, accelerate our investment in renewable sources, the energy for the future, for a Europe strategically independent from Russian fossil fuels.
Article 122 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) allows the Commission to provide financial assistance to the Member States “if severe difficulties arise in the supply of certain products, notably in the area of energy”, including by issuing new debt. Only the issuance of common bonds guaranteed by all of the Union’s countries can quickly and adequately finance Europe’s energy independence.
With that in mind, we must recall that massive programme of asset purchases by the European Central Bank (ECB) has been crucial to supporting the action of Next Generation EU. This is why we would like the debt issued by the Commission to finance the new Fund to be purchased by the ECB, in line with what is also envisaged under NGEU and accordance with the central bank’s mandate to “support the general economic policies in the EU”.
This would not only strengthen the confidence in the joint European debt instrument, but would also go in the direction that the 5 Star Movement has been pushing for of shifting investment spending on public goods such as defence or the environment to the European level.
The initiative must be complemented by a review of the European economic governance framework reflect the biggest challenge of our time: climate change. We call for the introduction of new indicators in the European Semester cycle to adequately measure the socio-economic impact of the climate crisis, and for a “golden rule” to exclude public investment to promote environmental sustainability from structural deficit calculations.
According to the European Commission, by 2030 we will need to invest an extra 390 billion euro per year compared to the investment level achieved in the previous decade. While most of the resources will come from the private sector, the State will have to play a role in the fight against climate change. The current EU’s fiscal rules, however, which are currently suspended, would render these investments impossible owing to the requirement to respect the deficit relative to GDP rule.
Extending the suspension of the Stability and Growth Pact is not enough: our goal is to achieve a complete overcoming of its ideological barriers, because epochal challenges require comparable responses. Only a renewed “Solidarity and Development Pact” can provide us with the tools necessary for creating an economy at the service of our citizens and relaunching a process of upward economic and social convergence.
High Representative Josep Borrell has said that the response to the Ukrainian crisis will lay the foundation for a geopolitical Europe. We are raising the stakes, because, when confronted with the most serious threat since the end of WW2, the “construction site” of European integration must also include a Europe of Energy, of Environment, of Social Affairs, of Security and Defence.
Only in this way can we provide the answers that citizens are requesting loud and clear, including at the Conference on the Future of Europe, starting with overcoming unanimity in decision-making processes at the European level. In a few words, we finally want to see a genuinely “political Europe”, in which to move from temporary risk-sharing to the ultimate sharing of a common destiny.