Three days at the European Parliament

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pag 8 muresan si Jose manuel fernandesLast week I had the privilege to be part of the group of 16 Romanian journalists invited by the MEP Siegfried Muresan in a 3-day information visit at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The visit has been occasioned by the debate in the plenum of the report on the EP’S priorities in budgetary matters for 2018, which has been drawn up by Siegfried Muresan.

MEP Siegfried Muresan, who is a member of the EPP political  Group on behalf of the People’s Movement Party (PMP), has been appointed on November 24, 2016, by the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets as chef-negotiator (rapporteur) for the EU Budget in 2018. Muresan has been a “shadow rapporteur” from the EPP Group for the previous budget, the EU Budget for 2017. It is noteworthy that Siegfried Muresan is the first MEP from Romania who negotiates the EU budget in the name of the European Parliament. Being an economist, Muresan has graduated the ASE (The Bucharest University of Economic Studies – e.n.) in 2004, he has continued his studies with a Masters in Economic Sciences and Management at the Humboldt University of Berlin, he was part of the international programs of internships of the Bundestag, where he subsequently was, for a three-year period, an adviser of the Chairman of the German Parliament’s Committee for European Affairs, Gunther Krichbaum. In 2009, he started to work for the European Parliament in Brussels, and in 2014 he became EPP’s Senior Political Adviser. This is a brief description of a career worthy to be admired of our host at Strasbourg, who was an extremely pleasant interlocutor.

European Parliament has three premises; in two of them, namely in Brussels and in Strasbourg, there are held plenary sessions, meetings of the committees and political groups, as well as other external activities, while the General Secretariat of this institution is located in Luxembourg. The premises in Brussels and Strasbourg can be visited individually or in groups.

The political priorities included by Siegfried Muresan in the report submitted to the European Parliament and adopted by it, are economic growth, creating new jobs and citizens’ safety. “This is what people expect Europe to deliver: jobs and safety-security. That’s why I believe we must use the limited resources provided by the EU budget exactly for these areas. Specifically, we will invest in infrastructure, in research-development-innovation, in SME’s, and we’ll support young entrepreneurs, especially those who establish companies based on research and innovation” stated Muresan in Strasbourg last week.

The program called “Discover EU”, launched as idea by the leader of the EPP group Manfred Weber, included by the Romanian MEP in his report, provides the allocation for free, from the EU budget, of a train ticket valid for 30 days in  EU countries and in 2 countries from outside EU, for each EU citizen who turns 18. “I proposed this project to facilitate knowing other European countries by the young people, practicing foreign languages they have learned in school. Statistics indicate that 64% of the employers appreciate the international experience of the young people at their first employment. Besides the already existing projects, like Erasmus program for students, we also want to launch this project next year, addressing to all the young people who turn 18, regardless if they are still in high school, university or other educational forms, or if they are already working or seeking a job” Muresan added.

Asked by the journalists about the consequences of the UK’s exit from European Union on the EU budget for 2018, the Romanian MEP stated that the impact will be 0% on the next year’s budget, since UK will be in 2018 an EU member with full benefits and obligations under the Treaty, like any other Member State. But after activating Article 50, there will be an impact on the EU budget, since UK is a net contributor to the EU budget. The solution which Muresan proposes is: “European Union should receive its own sources of income on a medium term, namely not by introducing new taxes at European level, but by bringing a small percentage of the already collected taxes at national level in all the 27 Member States, for instance VAT, directly at European level. Romania’s current contribution to the European budget is EUR 6.5 billion per year, which amount is provided in several instalments. I want more transparency, and as a simple citizen, I want to know how much European Union costs me. Instead of all taxes go to the Romanian Government, which maybe collects them, maybe not, but which is obliged to pay the contribution to the EU budget, who knows when, instead of this nontransparent mechanism, we should have the transparent mechanism by which a part of the existing taxes that are currently collected at national level will directly go at European level, so that the citizen will exactly know how much European Union costs him, what he receives in turn, thus bringing more predictability for the EU budget”.

At the debate of Tuesday evening, after Siegfried Muresan’s speech, there were several opinions on the report proposed by the EP chief-negotiator for the 2018 EU budget. European Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, announced that the priorities underlined in the Muresan report are converging with those of his, appreciating the Interrail idea as an extremely interesting one. Jose Manuel Fernandes (EPP) congratulated the rapporteur for his work. Bernd Kolmel (ECR) stated: “The positive thing of this report is that it focuses on creating new jobs, especially in the private environment”. Among the issues in the report which don’t satisfy the members of his political party, Kolmel mentioned the matters related to migration and its costs. He concluded: For the first time after many years, we will not reject this project. We will abstain from voting”. Anneli Jaatteenmaki (ALDE): “European Union must invest in a common security policy”. Monica Macovei (ECR) also spoke, stating that: “Only a very strict budgetary discipline can react and help us to react at the crisis situations”. Referring to the Europe’s security and citizens’ safety, Macovei stated: “The current budget of the Fund for Internal Security is approx. EUR 700 million for all the EU Member States, and I believe it is not sufficient”. Jonathan Arnott (EFDD) compared the EU budget which is 1% of the EU GDP, to the US budget’s weight of 20% of the GDP.

On Wednesday, March 15, at the European Parliament’s plenary session, there were several speeches on the upcoming anniversary of 60 years since the Treaty of Rome has been signed. Those who spoke were Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, Paolo Gentiloni, the Prime-Minister of Italy, one of the EU founding Member State, which will host, on March 25, the ceremonies celebrating 60 years of the Treaty of Rome.

Donald Tusk referred to Brexit in his speech. “I want to be clear on the fact that a scenario ‘without agreement’ would be bad for everybody, especially for UK”, stated Tusk in the plenary session.

Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Funding humanitarian project is at least as important as founding defense”.

The Italian Prime-Minister Paolo Gentiloni stated: “We are going through a difficult period. It probably is the most uncertain moment of the last 60 years of EU”.

The Maltese Deputy PM Louis Grech stated that the European leaders must take care of how they will manage Brexit: “EU is not only about Brussels, Strasbourg or institutions. EU is about 500 million people, their aspirations and fears. Brexit must not derail”.

As a result of the voting process, the report on the European Parliament’s political priorities for the EU Budget for 2018, drawn up by Siegfried Muresan, was adopted on Wednesday, March 15, with 445 votes “for” 134 “against” and 101 “abstentions”.