The Green/EFA group stole the show ahead of the announcement of the results of the work of the ‘Monti group’ on own resources for the future EU budget, by tabling an alternative report focusing on “green own resources”.
The high level-group on own resources, better known as the “Monti group”, named after its chair, Mario Monti, a former Italian prime minister and EU Commissioner, held its last meeting yesterday (5 December).
The group, which includes high-level politicians from the EPP, S&D and ALDE, was established in February 2014, and tasked with producing a report by the end of 2016.
The Monti report will be the final report of the high-level group, and will serve as the basis for the Commission’s legislative proposals for the EU’s long-term budget for 2021-2027, due by the end of next year.
Pre-empting the announcements of the Monti group, on Tuesday (6 December), the Greens published a 100-page paper, advocating the introduction of ecological own resources to make the EU budget more independent of the payments made by member states.
The Greens voted against the last long-term budget (also called Multiannual Financial Framework, or MFF), for the period 2014-2020, and also for the previous one. Their reasons were that the overall level of the MFF was too low, and also because in their view it was not flexible and not ecological enough.
MEP Helga Trüpel (Germany), who co-hosted the media presentation of the report together with her colleague Ernest Margall (Spain), said that their political group tasked “Green Budget Europe” to produce a study exploring new ways to tax industry and achieve a much more ecological means of production and taxation.
According to Trüpel, the main advantage of the initiative is that it could lead to a decrease in the present amount of roughly 1% of GNI that they pay to the EU budget, if more own resources would flow into it.
“This would mean that on the political level, we would be much more independent from the fight in the Council,” she said, adding that it was not the EU institutions, but member states who pushed for a smaller EU budget.
“When we had a debate last week in the [European Parliament] plenary, with the Council representatives, with the Slovak Presidency, with Budget Commissioner Georgieva still in office, it was very clear that there was no strong support for the question of new own resources. But we think we really need a reform there if we want to have progress for the European budget,” she said.
Constance Adolf, who is the leading person behind the report, said its aim was to “demystify” the different misperceptions around green own resources. She said the EU would be unable to deliver on its climate commitments, including the Paris Agreement.
“Show me what you tax and I will tell you what your real objectives are,” Adolf said, arguing that instead of heavily taxing labour, resources and emissions should be taxed instead.
Asked by EURACTIV.com if ecological taxes would make EU products uncompetitive on a global scale, she said that on the contrary, experience from the Danish CO2 tax shows that it has helped the country secure its place as one of the most competitive and energy efficient countries in the world.
“Sweden, which has a carbon tax of €186 per ton of CO2, is highly competitive,” said Adolf, adding that Scandinavian countries are a good example of high taxes going hand in hand with a low-carbon social welfare state and a competitive economy.
The alternative, she argued, was not doing anything, not making efforts to decarbonise, which in her words is like “waiting for the catastrophe”.
The report, however, recognises that a communications strategy is needed to help overcome hesitations in introducing green own resources.
Margall said that with their report, the Greens were giving the Monti group “not just rhetoric, not just philosophy, but knowledge”. He added that according to his information, the Monti group also had some ideas regarding carbon tax.
“The Monti group is not our enemy,” Trüpel said, adding that the real controversies were at the Council level, another question mark being if the new budget commissioner “he or she would understand that we have to move”.
Asked if Günther Oettinger, who is expected to take over as budget commissioner very soon, was expected to read the report, Trüpel said at least his team would read it. Asked if she was happy that Oettinger will not pass a real audition, as no vote is expected, she answered negatively.
“Even if he has been a Commissioner and he is changing portfolio, there should be a vote, that would be democratic behaviour,” Trüpel said, adding “and of course we would like to address his half-private meetings”.