Principle of Mutual solidarity in EU Budget welcome

23 July 2020

Speaking in the Dáil debate on the recent EU Council meeting, Labour’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Brexit, Brendan Howlin TD, welcomed the fact that the EU has now adopted the principle of mutual solidarity in its budget for the first time.

Speaking in relation to this, Brendan said:

“The 27 heads of government who met in Brussels last weekend have passed a fundamental test for the European Union. For the very first time, the EU will borrow money collectively and distribute this money through grants on the basis of mutual solidarity and support. The establishment of this important principle of solidarity between members is a watershed moment in the EU’s history, and it confirms that the EU is more than just a trading club but is a genuine partnership of democracies that are working to improve the lives of all citizens across Europe.

“That said, the principle of EU solidarity has been under attack. The final European recovery fund is not as ambitious as Labour had hoped for, and investment in vital areas such as healthcare preparedness and a just transition to a low carbon economy have been pared back. A small number of so-called ‘frugal’ countries have diluted solidarity by reducing the level of grants from €500 billion to €390 billion. And Thatcher’s rebate for richer countries, which might have disappeared with the UK’s exit, has unfortunately remained as part of the EU’s budget calculations.

“Nonetheless, the recovery fund will provide Ireland with direct grants in the billions of euro over the lifetime of the EU budget, which will assist our economic recovery. Likewise, the creation of a €5 billion Brexit contingency fund will benefit us. But much more importantly, the EU recovery package will assist our partners to recover across the EU. We are a country that exports nearly more per capita than any other in the EU, and we need our trading partners across Europe to recover their ability to buy our goods and services.

“Some commentators, including some parties in the Dáil, have started using a Tory Brexiteer formula to compare what we pay into the EU budget versus the cash we receive from it. This is a disastrous, sterile and dangerous formation. Those who peddle these ideas should reflect on the sad experience of Brexit and on the populism that has done nothing but divide people in other European countries.

“Membership of the single market and customs union will be worth tens of billions of euro to Ireland over the lifetime of the seven-year EU budget. Our cash contribution will be easily outweighed by the total economic benefit we receive by being part of the world’s largest market. We certainly should have done more with this recovery fund to address the imbalances in the EU’s economy and the economic inequalities that have driven so many people away from supporting the post-war principles that underpinned the EU’s creation. But at the very least, the principle of mutual solidarity has been advanced.

“The European Union is now a union that transfers funds on the basis of need, and the EU itself will repay the money it has borrowed through its own taxes and levies. These developments provide us with new opportunities to invest in solutions to climate change and inequality.”

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