General Market

Text adopted – Guidelines for the 2018 budget – Section III – P8_TA-PROV(2017)0085 – Wednesday, 15 March 2017 – Strasbourg – Provisional edition

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 314 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 of 2 December 2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020(1)
,

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 2 December 2013 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management(2)
(hereinafter ‘the Interinstitutional Agreement’),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(3)
,

—  having regard to Council Decision 2014/335/EU, Euratom of 26 May 2014 on the system of own resources of the European Union(4)
,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2017(5)
and the joint statements agreed between Parliament, the Council and the Commission annexed thereto(6)
,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 21 February 2017 on the 2018 budget guidelines (6522/2017),

–  having regard to Rule 86a of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgets (A8-0060/2017),

A.  whereas 2018 will mark the fifth year of the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF);

B.  whereas the internal economic and social context as well as external challenges and political uncertainties are likely to uphold the pressure on the 2018 EU budget;

C.  whereas the budgetary reaction to immediate challenges and crises must go hand in hand with sustainable answers that invest in the Union’s common future;

A budget for sustainable growth, jobs and security

1.  Welcomes the important role played by the EU budget in delivering concrete answers to the challenges the EU is facing; stresses that decent, quality and stable jobs, particularly for young people, economic growth and socio-economic convergence, migration, security and tackling populism, as well as climate change, are the main concerns at EU level and that the EU budget remains part of the solution to these issues; stresses that solidarity must remain an underlying principle of the EU budget; underlines that only a strong and targeted EU budget with genuine European added value will benefit all Member States and EU citizens alike; expects the Commission to put forward a draft 2018 budget that enables the EU to continue to generate prosperity through growth and jobs and ensures the safety of its citizens;

2.  Believes that, while maintaining budget discipline, the EU budget must be equipped with the tools to enable it to respond to multiple crises simultaneously, a certain level of flexibility thus being required; is of the opinion that, while growth and jobs continue to remain the core priorities of the EU budget, obtaining sustainable progress and development in these fields has to be accomplished in parallel to addressing EU citizens’ concerns regarding safety and security; reiterates its call for thematic concentration when setting priorities for the 2018 EU budget;

Research, infrastructure and SMEs as key enablers of growth and jobs

3.  Underlines that enhancing the competitiveness of the EU economy, infrastructure, well-funded research, support for developing skills and the continued commitment of the EU to strengthening investment are key to ensuring economic growth and job creation; believes that the creation of socially and environmentally sustainable and well-paid jobs must be one of the main priorities of the EU budget; argues that jobs are created mainly by the private sector, and that adequate budgetary support therefore needs to be devoted to boosting investment in both private and public sectors, with special attention to SMEs; consequently underlines the importance of Heading 1a, which delivers real added value for European citizens and businesses, and calls for an appropriate level of funding for this heading to be ensured;

4.  Stresses that investment in research and innovation, including support for start-ups, represents a precondition for achieving genuine competitiveness in the EU and for ensuring an innovative and competitive EU economy on a global level; regrets the fact that, as a result of an inadequate EU funding in the field of research and innovation there is an alarmingly low success rate for applications, and that several high-quality projects in the field of research and innovation are being left without EU funding; notes that many interested parties, including SMEs, are being deterred from submitting Horizon 2020 project proposals; calls in this respect for an appropriate level of appropriations to be ensured for Horizon 2020, while continuing with its simplification agenda; underlines that an enhanced budget for Horizon 2020 should not be at the expense of other research programmes;

5.  Recognises the fact that SMEs remain the backbone of the European economy and will continue to play a decisive role in creating jobs and growth across the EU; considers also that SMEs are the main source of job creation and therefore need an appropriate access to finance; calls in this respect for COSME appropriations to be increased, taking into account the success of this programme; stresses the importance of strengthening the COSME programme in the new MFF in order to provide SMEs with more substantial support from the EU; believes that establishing synergies with other financial instruments would lead to better results;

6.  Strongly supports the further development and enhancement of interoperability of European infrastructure networks; considers that the financing of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is vital to achieving these objectives, and calls on the Commission to ensure an appropriate level of funding in 2018;

7.  Underlines the important role and potential of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) in reducing the investment gap which still exists in Europe, and recognises the positive results achieved so far; welcomes also the Commission proposal for extending the EFSI until 2020, which should aim to further improve its functioning, including application of the additionality principle and of geographical balance, for which further efforts are needed; underlines that the selection of projects financed through EFSI should be based on quality and demand-driven; welcomes the Commission’s intention to reinforce the role of the European Investment Advisory Hub in terms of providing more targeted local technical assistance across the EU and also to enhance geographical balance; also calls on the Commission to regularly analyse the added value of EFSI through impact assessment of the effects of the fund;

Education and youth employment – prerequisites for the success of the younger generation

8.  Considers education to be a prerequisite for sustainable, well-paid and stable jobs; underlines the importance of mobility as a means of enabling young Europeans to take advantage of people’s variety of skills while expanding opportunities for education, training and employment; welcomes in this respect the role played by Erasmus+ in facilitating the intra-European mobility of young students, apprentices and volunteers; believes that, especially in times of rising nationalism and populism, it is important to facilitate natural interaction between different European nations and cultures in order to enhance European consciousness and identity; calls, in this context, for the funding for the Erasmus+ programme to be further increased in 2018;

9.  Underlines that youth unemployment is one of the main concerns at European level, having a particularly high social impact, especially in the Union’s poorest regions, and that it puts at risk an entire generation of young Europeans, undermining long-term economic growth; stresses that, as part of the conciliation agreement for the 2017 EU budget, an allocation of EUR 500 million will be granted to the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), through an amending budget in 2017; considers YEI to be a fundamental contribution to the Union’s priority objective of jobs and growth, and remains firmly committed to securing adequate funding for fighting youth unemployment and continuing YEI up to the end of the current MFF, while at the same time improving its functioning and implementation; stresses in this respect the importance of the EU Youth Strategy;

10.  Takes positive note of the proposal to launch an ‘18th Birthday Interrail Pass for Europe’; underlines that this project has the potential to boost European consciousness and identity; stresses, however, that the project should not be financed at the expense of other successful EU programmes, notably in the field of youth and culture, and should be as socially inclusive as possible and contain provisions for including residents of Europe’s peripheral islands; asks the Commission to assess the potential cost and funding sources of this initiative and put forward relevant proposals;

Traditional EU budget priorities as investment policies

11.  Strongly supports regional policy as one of the main investment instruments of the EU budget ensuring economic, social and territorial cohesion; underlines that this policy generates growth and jobs in all Member States; is concerned, however, at the unacceptable delays in implementation of operational programmes at EU level under the current MFF, which have led so far to lower investment that has failed to contribute sufficiently to growth and job creation or to reducing economic, social and territorial disparities within and between European regions; calls on the Commission to identify the causes of the delays and on the Member States to cooperate in order to tackle them, in particular so as to ensure that the designation of managing, auditing and certifying authorities is concluded and implementation is sharply accelerated;

12.  Recognises the importance of the European agricultural sector in maintaining food security and managing biodiversity in the EU; expresses its full support for the farmers affected by the Russian embargo, avian flu, the dairy sector crisis and the meat crisis; calls on the Commission, therefore, to continue to support farmers across Europe in coping with unexpected market volatility and in securing safe and quality food supplies; requests that suitable attention be paid to small-scale farming and fisheries;

Internal challenges

13.  Is convinced that, under the current circumstances, the EU budget has proven to be insufficient to deal with the effects of the migratory and refugee crisis and corresponding humanitarian challenges or with the challenges in the security area such as increasing international terrorism; underlines that, on this basis, a sustainable solution must be found to this issue, as it has been demonstrated by the repeated mobilisation of special instruments such as the flexibility instrument that the EU budget was not initially designed to address crises of such magnitude; points out that a coherent strategy for tackling the migratory and refugee crisis, including clear, measurable and comprehensible objectives, has to be adopted; recalls, however, that the need to mobilise supplementary means to face these challenges should not take precedence over other important Union policies, for example in the field of jobs and growth;

14.  Welcomes the role played by instruments such as the Internal Security Fund (ISF) and the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in addressing the effects of the migratory and refugee crisis and corresponding humanitarian challenges, and calls for adequate budgeting in the coming years for these funds; reiterates the importance of the principle of burden-sharing among Member States in financing the efforts needed to adequately provide for refugees; welcomes also the role of the EU agencies in the area of justice and home affairs, such as Europol, the European Border and Coast Guard, EASO, Eurojust, the Agency for Fundamental Rights and eu-LISA, and calls, in this context, for their mandate to be executed on the basis of enhanced budgeting and staffing; is convinced that the EU needs to invest more in the strengthening and the management of its borders, enhancing cooperation between law enforcement agencies and national authorities and fighting terrorism, radicalisation and serious and organised crime by improving integration measures and practices, ensuring the interoperability of information systems, and guaranteeing sound return operations for those not entitled to international protection while fully respecting the principle of non-refoulement;

15.  Underlines that the current budget of the ISF (approximately EUR 700 million in commitments) is not sufficient for tackling the security challenges stemming from international terrorism; calls, therefore, for reinforced financial resources for bringing the security infrastructure up to a more adequate and modern level;

16.  Recalls the importance of European agencies in ensuring the implementation of the European legislative priorities and thereby accomplishing EU policy objectives, such as those related to competitiveness, growth, employment and to managing the current migration and refugee crisis; insists, therefore, that adequate financial and human resources be provided for both administrative and operational expenditure in order to allow the agencies to fulfil their assigned tasks and deliver the best possible results; with regard to the increases in staffing and appropriations for agencies since the 2014 budget, underlines the fact that these are regarded as part of new policy developments and legislation which do not enter in the calculation of the 5 % staff reduction target; stresses, therefore, that the 2018 budget should not foresee any further reductions in the European agencies’ establishment plans beyond the 5 % agreed on for each institution and body of the European Union in the framework of the Interinstitutional Agreement;

17.  Strongly supports initiatives in the field of defence research aimed at encouraging better cooperation between Member States and achieving synergy effects in the area of defence; stresses, however, that this activity should be endowed with fresh resources, as it is a new political initiative with a significant impact on the EU budget; calls, moreover, for the exploration of all possibilities for the financing of a defence research programme with a dedicated budget within the next MFF; recalls that, while the provisions enshrined in the Treaties must be respected, strengthened cooperation in the field of defence is a necessary option in order to meet the security challenges that the EU is facing, which are generated by prolonged instability in the Union’s neighbourhood and uncertainty regarding the commitment of certain of the EU’s partners to the objectives of NATO; underlines, furthermore, the need for improved competitiveness and innovation in the European defence industry that can contribute to stimulating growth and job creation; calls on the Member States to ensure adequate budgeting in order to tackle external challenges in a more congruent way; takes note of the establishment of the European Defence Fund, with its research and capability windows;

18.  Underlines that the EU budget must support the fulfilment of the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the EU’s own long-term climate goals by achieving the 20 % climate spending target in the 2014-2020 MFF; notes with concern that the EU’s 2020 biodiversity targets will not be met without substantial additional efforts; stresses, therefore, the importance of mainstreaming biodiversity protection across the EU budget, with particular focus on the LIFE programme and the Natura 2000 network;

External challenges

19.  Stresses that the EU budget is also an instrument of external solidarity, providing urgent assistance in humanitarian and civilian crises by offering support to countries in need; recalls that the challenges of poverty eradication and sustainable development have been confirmed as a key priority for the EU and its Member States; reiterates, in this context, the EU commitment to contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to achieving the 0,7°% ODA/GNI target within the time frame of the post-2015 agenda; highlights that, in the long-term, development aid yields a return on investment in the form of increased trade and GDP growth in Europe;

20.  Reaffirms its conviction that in order to tackle the root causes of the current migratory and refugee crisis and the corresponding humanitarian challenges, the EU needs to step up its role through investment in the countries of origin of the migratory flows; calls on the Commission in this regard to design a roadmap to tackle the migratory crisis in an effective way; stresses that greater strategic adjustment of all instruments of development policy is needed to ensure steady economic and social development while not undermining the implementation of the existing external policies; notes that investment in infrastructure, housing, education and medical services and support for SMEs, with a particular focus on job creation, social protection and inclusion, are part of the solution for tackling the root causes of migration; welcomes, therefore, as part of the solution to these challenges, the External Investment Plan (EIP), as a coherent and coordinated framework for promoting investment in Africa and in the Neighbourhood countries, keeping in mind that it needs to be fully aligned with and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals; expects that the EIP will promote sustainable development without compromising human rights, climate change mitigation or good governance, and that transparent management of the European Fund for Sustainable Development and its projects will be ensured;

21.  Notes that the current trend on the Commission’s part to resort to satellite budgetary mechanisms such as the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, trust funds and other similar instruments has not proved a success in all cases; is concerned that the establishment of financial instruments outside the Union budget undermines the transparent management of the budget and hampers the right of Parliament to exercise effective scrutiny of expenditure; maintains, therefore, its position that the ad hoc external financial instruments which have emerged in recent years must be incorporated into the EU budget, with Parliament having full scrutiny over the implementation of these instruments; stresses, however, that these instruments should not be financed at the expense of other existing external instruments; takes note of the divergence between Member States’ promises and their actual contribution to these funds, and urges the Member States to stand by their promises to match the contributions of the EU;

22.  Underlines that one of the conditions for preserving stability and prosperity in the EU is a stable EU neighbourhood; calls on the Commission, therefore, to ensure that priority is given to investment in the EU Neighbourhood in order to support efforts to tackle the main issues that this area is facing, namely the migratory and refugee crisis and corresponding humanitarian challenges in the Southern Neighbourhood, and Russian aggression in the Eastern Neighbourhood; reiterates that supporting countries which are implementing association agreements with the EU is pivotal to facilitating political and economic reforms, but stresses that such support should apply as long as those countries meet the eligibility criteria, especially as regards the rule of law and enforcing democratic institutions;

Sufficient payment appropriations resulting in increased credibility for the EU

23.  Reiterates its previous calls for providing the EU budget with an adequate level of payment appropriations in order to allow it to fulfil its main purpose as an investment budget; is convinced that this role cannot be fulfilled if the EU fails to deliver on its commitments and thus endangers its credibility;

24.  Stresses that delays in the implementation of the 2014-2020 programmes under shared management led to a drop in payment claims for 2016 and 2017; is particularly concerned at the possible reconstitution of a backlog of unpaid bills towards the end of the current MFF period, and recalls the unprecedented level of EUR 24,7 billion reached at the end of 2014; welcomes the fact that the Commission, on the occasion of the MFF mid-term revision, provided for the first time a payment forecast until 2020, but stresses that this needs to be duly updated every year, in order to allow the budgetary authority to take the necessary measures in time;

25.  Underlines that, despite a final agreement on the MFF mid-term revision not yet having been reached, several positive elements of the revision that are currently under negotiation – notably in terms of increased flexibility – might prove to be instrumental in preventing and responding to a future payment crisis; believes that if the implementation of cohesion policy were to accelerate as anticipated the increased flexibility might be needed already next year, in order to ensure an adequate level of payment appropriations in the EU budget in response, and to avoid the accumulation of unpaid bills under cohesion policy at the end of the year;

26.  Notes and regrets the fact that corporate tax fraud and tax avoidance have caused huge losses of tax income for Member States, and therefore a reduction in their contributions to the EU budget; considers moreover that such unfair tax competition in some cases means GDP transfer from one Member State to another and GNI transfer to non-EU tax havens, thus reducing aggregate Member State contributions to the EU budget;

27.  Reiterates its long-standing position that the payments of special instruments (the Flexibility Instrument, the EU Solidarity Fund, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund and the Emergency Aid Reserve) must be counted over and above the MFF payment ceiling, as is the case for commitments; underlines, in the context of the ongoing MFF mid-term revision, the potential progress achieved on the issue of budgeting the payments of the MFF special instruments with the revision of the 2014 Contingency Margin decision, even if the matter was not unequivocally resolved;

Looking forward

28.  Underlines that according to the MFF regulation, the Commission will put forward by the end of 2017 its proposals for the post-2020 MFF, which should take into account the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the EU which will impact on the post-2020 MFF; stresses that this decision makes it impossible to proceed with business as usual; attaches the utmost importance to the process leading up to the establishment of the new financial framework and a reformed and more efficient EU budget, and expects this to be commensurate to the challenges the Union is facing and to the commitments it has already entered into; calls for a swift and positive conclusion to the ongoing mid-term MFF revision that can ensure both the necessary adjustment of the current financial framework and the degree of additional flexibility of the EU budget that is indispensable for attaining the Union’s objectives;

29.  Underlines that the predictability and long-term sustainability of the EU budget is a prerequisite for a strong and stable European Union; stresses the need to align the duration of the MFF with the political cycles of both Parliament and the Commission; draws attention to the fact that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will provide an opportunity to address the long-standing issues which have prevented the EU budget from reaching its real potential, especially as regards the revenue side, in order to phase out all rebates and correction mechanisms; reaffirms its position in favour of an in-depth reform of EU own resources, and welcomes in this respect the presentation of the final report of the High-Level Group on Own Resources (HLGOR); invites all involved parties to draw the appropriate conclusions from this report and to analyse the feasibility of implementing the recommendations of the HLGOR that would help make the EU budget more stable, simple, autonomous, fair and predictable; expects that any new own resources should lead to a reduction in Member States’ GNI contributions; welcomes the conclusion of the HLGOR regarding the fact that the EU budget needs to focus on areas bringing the highest European added value and regarding the ‘juste retour’ approach, which should end, as it has been shown by the report that all Member States benefit from the EU budget, irrespective of their ‘net balance’;

30.  Encourages the Commission to continue developing and implementing the ‘EU budget focused on results’ strategy; underlines, in this regard, the importance of simplifying rules, streamlining the monitoring process and developing relevant performance indicators;

31.  Stresses that the principle of gender equality should be mainstreamed, wherever possible, as a horizontal policy objective in all titles of the EU budget;

32.  Stresses the importance of Parliament being fully involved in all budget-related matters, as the sole institution democratically elected by EU citizens;

33.  Calls on the Council to live up to its political statements and cooperate to ensure that the EU is equipped with an adequate budget;

o
o   o

34.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors.

(1) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 884.
(2) OJ C 373, 20.12.2013, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 168, 7.6.2014, p. 105.
(5) OJ L 51, 28.2.2017.
(6) Texts adopted of 1.12.2016, P8_TA(2016)0475.
General Market

Report – Guidelines for the 2018 Budget – Section III – A8-0060/2017 – Committee on Budgets

on general guidelines for the preparation of the 2018 budget, Section III – Commission

(2016/2323(BUD))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 314 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 of 2 December 2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020(1),

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 2 December 2013 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management(2) (hereinafter ‘the Interinstitutional Agreement’),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(3),

–  having regard to Council Decision 2014/335/EU, Euratom of 26 May 2014 on the system of own resources of the European Union(4),

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2017(5) and the joint statements agreed between Parliament, the Council and the Commission annexed thereto,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 21 February 2017 on the 2018 budget guidelines (6522/2017),

–  having regard to Rule 86a of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgets (A8-0060/2017),

A.  whereas 2018 will mark the fifth year of the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF);

B.  whereas the internal economic and social context as well as external challenges and political uncertainties are likely to uphold the pressure on the 2018 EU budget;

C.  whereas the budgetary reaction to immediate challenges and crises must go hand in hand with sustainable answers that invest in the Union’s common future;

A budget for sustainable growth, jobs and security

1.  Welcomes the important role played by the EU budget in delivering concrete answers to the challenges the EU is facing; stresses that decent, quality and stable jobs, particularly for young people, economic growth and socio-economic convergence, migration, security and tackling populism, as well as climate change, are the main concerns at EU level and that the EU budget remains part of the solution to these issues; stresses that solidarity must remain an underlying principle of the EU budget; underlines that only a strong and targeted EU budget with genuine European added value will benefit all Member States and EU citizens alike; expects the Commission to put forward a draft 2018 budget that enables the EU to continue to generate prosperity through growth and jobs and ensures the safety of its citizens;

2.  Believes that, while maintaining budget discipline, the EU budget must be equipped with the tools to enable it to respond to multiple crises simultaneously, a certain level of flexibility thus being required; is of the opinion that, while growth and jobs continue to remain the core priorities of the EU budget, obtaining sustainable progress and development in these fields has to be accomplished in parallel to addressing EU citizens’ concerns regarding safety and security; reiterates its call for thematic concentration when setting priorities for the 2018 EU budget;

Research, infrastructure and SMEs as key enablers of growth and jobs

3.  Underlines that enhancing the competitiveness of the EU economy, infrastructure, well-funded research, support for developing skills and the continued commitment of the EU to strengthening investment are key to ensuring economic growth and job creation; believes that the creation of socially and environmentally sustainable and well-paid jobs must be one of the main priorities of the EU budget; argues that jobs are created mainly by the private sector, and that adequate budgetary support therefore needs to be devoted to boosting investment in both private and public sectors, with special attention to SMEs; consequently underlines the importance of Heading 1a, which delivers real added value for European citizens and businesses, and calls for an appropriate level of funding for this heading to be ensured;

4.  Stresses that investment in research and innovation, including support for start-ups, represents a precondition for achieving genuine competitiveness in the EU and for ensuring an innovative and competitive EU economy on a global level; regrets the fact that, as a result of an inadequate EU funding in the field of research and innovation there is an alarmingly low success rate for applications, and that several high-quality projects in the field of research and innovation are being left without EU funding; notes that many interested parties, including SMEs, are being deterred from submitting Horizon 2020 project proposals; calls in this respect for an appropriate level of appropriations to be ensured for Horizon 2020, while continuing with its simplification agenda; underlines that an enhanced budget for Horizon 2020 should not be at the expense of other research programmes;

5.  Recognises the fact that SMEs remain the backbone of the European economy and will continue to play a decisive role in creating jobs and growth across the EU; considers also that SMEs are the main source of job creation and therefore need an appropriate access to finance; calls in this respect for COSME appropriations to be increased, taking into account the success of this programme; stresses the importance of strengthening the COSME programme in the new MFF in order to provide SMEs with more substantial support from the EU; believes that establishing synergies with other financial instruments would lead to better results;

6.  Strongly supports the further development and enhancement of interoperability of European infrastructure networks; considers that the financing of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is vital to achieving these objectives, and calls on the Commission to ensure an appropriate level of funding in 2018;

7.  Underlines the important role and potential of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) in reducing the investment gap which still exists in Europe, and recognises the positive results achieved so far; welcomes also the Commission proposal for extending the EFSI until 2020, which should aim to further improve its functioning, including application of the additionality principle and of geographical balance, for which further efforts are needed; underlines that the selection of projects financed through EFSI should be based on quality and demand-driven; welcomes the Commission’s intention to reinforce the role of the European Investment Advisory Hub in terms of providing more targeted local technical assistance across the EU and also to enhance geographical balance; also calls on the Commission to regularly analyse the added value of EFSI through impact assessment of the effects of the fund;

Education and youth employment – prerequisites for the success of the younger generation

8.  Considers education to be a prerequisite for sustainable, well-paid and stable jobs; underlines the importance of mobility as a means of enabling young Europeans to take advantage of people’s variety of skills while expanding opportunities for education, training and employment; welcomes in this respect the role played by Erasmus+ in facilitating the intra-European mobility of young students, apprentices and volunteers; believes that, especially in times of rising nationalism and populism, it is important to facilitate natural interaction between different European nations and cultures in order to enhance European consciousness and identity; calls, in this context, for the funding for the Erasmus+ programme to be further increased in 2018;

9.  Underlines that youth unemployment is one of the main concerns at European level, having a particularly high social impact, especially in the Union’s poorest regions, and that it puts at risk an entire generation of young Europeans, undermining long-term economic growth; stresses that, as part of the conciliation agreement for the 2017 EU budget, an allocation of EUR 500 million will be granted to the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), through an amending budget in 2017; considers YEI to be a fundamental contribution to the Union’s priority objective of jobs and growth, and remains firmly committed to securing adequate funding for fighting youth unemployment and continuing YEI up to the end of the current MFF, while at the same time improving its functioning and implementation; stresses in this respect the importance of the EU Youth Strategy;

10.  Takes positive note of the proposal to launch an ‘18th Birthday Interrail Pass for Europe’; underlines that this project has the potential to boost European consciousness and identity; stresses, however, that the project should not be financed at the expense of other successful EU programmes, notably in the field of youth and culture, and should be as socially inclusive as possible and contain provisions for including residents of Europe’s peripheral islands; asks the Commission to assess the potential cost and funding sources of this initiative and put forward relevant proposals;

Traditional EU budget priorities as investment policies

11.  Strongly supports regional policy as one of the main investment instruments of the EU budget ensuring economic, social and territorial cohesion; underlines that this policy generates growth and jobs in all Member States; is concerned, however, at the unacceptable delays in implementation of operational programmes at EU level under the current MFF, which have led so far to lower investment that has failed to contribute sufficiently to growth and job creation or to reducing economic, social and territorial disparities within and between European regions; calls on the Commission to identify the causes of the delays and on the Member States to cooperate in order to tackle them, in particular so as to ensure that the designation of managing, auditing and certifying authorities is concluded and implementation is sharply accelerated;

12.  Recognises the importance of the European agricultural sector in maintaining food security and managing biodiversity in the EU; expresses its full support for the farmers affected by the Russian embargo, avian flu, the dairy sector crisis and the meat crisis; calls on the Commission, therefore, to continue to support farmers across Europe in coping with unexpected market volatility and in securing safe and quality food supplies; requests that suitable attention be paid to small-scale farming and fisheries;

Internal challenges

13.  Is convinced that, under the current circumstances, the EU budget has proven to be insufficient to deal with the effects of the migratory and refugee crisis and corresponding humanitarian challenges or with the challenges in the security area such as increasing international terrorism; underlines that, on this basis, a sustainable solution must be found to this issue, as it has been demonstrated by the repeated mobilisation of special instruments such as the flexibility instrument that the EU budget was not initially designed to address crises of such magnitude; points out that a coherent strategy for tackling the migratory and refugee crisis, including clear, measurable and comprehensible objectives, has to be adopted; recalls, however, that the need to mobilise supplementary means to face these challenges should not take precedence over other important Union policies, for example in the field of jobs and growth;

14.  Welcomes the role played by instruments such as the Internal Security Fund (ISF) and the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in addressing the effects of the migratory and refugee crisis and corresponding humanitarian challenges, and calls for adequate budgeting in the coming years for these funds; reiterates the importance of the principle of burden-sharing among Member States in financing the efforts needed to adequately provide for refugees; welcomes also the role of the EU agencies in the area of justice and home affairs, such as Europol, the European Border and Coast Guard, EASO, Eurojust, the Agency for Fundamental Rights and eu-LISA, and calls, in this context, for their mandate to be executed on the basis of enhanced budgeting and staffing; is convinced that the EU needs to invest more in the strengthening and the management of its borders, enhancing cooperation between law enforcement agencies and national authorities and fighting terrorism, radicalisation and serious and organised crime by improving integration measures and practices, ensuring the interoperability of information systems, and guaranteeing sound return operations for those not entitled to international protection while fully respecting the principle of non-refoulement;

15.  Underlines that the current budget of the ISF (approximately EUR 700 million in commitments) is not sufficient for tackling the security challenges stemming from international terrorism; calls, therefore, for reinforced financial resources for bringing the security infrastructure up to a more adequate and modern level;

16.  Recalls the importance of European agencies in ensuring the implementation of the European legislative priorities and thereby accomplishing EU policy objectives, such as those related to competitiveness, growth, employment and to managing the current migration and refugee crisis; insists, therefore, that adequate financial and human resources be provided for both administrative and operational expenditure in order to allow the agencies to fulfil their assigned tasks and deliver the best possible results; with regard to the increases in staffing and appropriations for agencies since the 2014 budget, underlines the fact that these are regarded as part of new policy developments and legislation which do not enter in the calculation of the 5 % staff reduction target; stresses, therefore, that the 2018 budget should not foresee any further reductions in the European agencies’ establishment plans beyond the 5 % agreed on for each institution and body of the European Union in the framework of the Interinstitutional Agreement;

17.  Strongly supports initiatives in the field of defence research aimed at encouraging better cooperation between Member States and achieving synergy effects in the area of defence; stresses, however, that this activity should be endowed with fresh resources, as it is a new political initiative with a significant impact on the EU budget; calls, moreover, for the exploration of all possibilities for the financing of a defence research programme with a dedicated budget within the next MFF; recalls that, while the provisions enshrined in the Treaties must be respected, strengthened cooperation in the field of defence is a necessary option in order to meet the security challenges that the EU is facing, which are generated by prolonged instability in the Union’s neighbourhood and uncertainty regarding the commitment of certain of the EU’s partners to the objectives of NATO; underlines, furthermore, the need for improved competitiveness and innovation in the European defence industry that can contribute to stimulating growth and job creation; calls on the Member States to ensure adequate budgeting in order to tackle external challenges in a more congruent way; takes note of the establishment of the European Defence Fund, with its research and capability windows;

18.  Underlines that the EU budget must support the fulfilment of the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the EU’s own long-term climate goals by achieving the 20 % climate spending target in the 2014-2020 MFF; notes with concern that the EU’s 2020 biodiversity targets will not be met without substantial additional efforts; stresses, therefore, the importance of mainstreaming biodiversity protection across the EU budget, with particular focus on the LIFE programme and the Natura 2000 network;

External challenges

19.  Reaffirms its conviction that in order to tackle the root causes of the current migratory and refugee crisis and the corresponding humanitarian challenges, the EU needs to step up its role through investment in the countries of origin of the migratory flows; calls on the Commission in this regard to design a roadmap to tackle the migratory crisis in an effective way; stresses that greater strategic adjustment of all instruments of development policy is needed to ensure steady economic and social development while not undermining the implementation of the existing external policies; notes that investment in infrastructure, housing, education and medical services and support for SMEs, with a particular focus on job creation, social protection and inclusion, are part of the solution for tackling the root causes of migration; welcomes, therefore, as part of the solution to these challenges, the External Investment Plan (EIP), as a coherent and coordinated framework for promoting investment in Africa and in the Neighbourhood countries, keeping in mind that it needs to be fully aligned with and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals; expects that the EIP will promote sustainable development without compromising human rights, climate change mitigation or good governance, and that transparent management of the European Fund for Sustainable Development and its projects will be ensured;

20.  Notes that the current trend on the Commission’s part to resort to satellite budgetary mechanisms such as the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, trust funds and other similar instruments has not proved a success in all cases; is concerned that the establishment of financial instruments outside the Union budget undermines the transparent management of the budget and hampers the right of Parliament to exercise effective scrutiny of expenditure; maintains, therefore, its position that the ad hoc external financial instruments which have emerged in recent years must be incorporated into the EU budget, with Parliament having full scrutiny over the implementation of these instruments; stresses, however, that these instruments should not be financed at the expense of other existing external instruments; takes note of the divergence between Member States’ promises and their actual contribution to these funds, and urges the Member States to stand by their promises to match the contributions of the EU;

21.  Underlines that one of the conditions for preserving stability and prosperity in the EU is a stable EU neighbourhood; calls on the Commission, therefore, to ensure that priority is given to investment in the EU Neighbourhood in order to support efforts to tackle the main issues that this area is facing, namely the migratory and refugee crisis and corresponding humanitarian challenges in the Southern Neighbourhood, and Russian aggression in the Eastern Neighbourhood; reiterates that supporting countries which are implementing association agreements with the EU is pivotal to facilitating political and economic reforms, but stresses that such support should apply as long as those countries meet the eligibility criteria, especially as regards the rule of law and enforcing democratic institutions;

Sufficient payment appropriations resulting in increased credibility for the EU

22.  Reiterates its previous calls for providing the EU budget with an adequate level of payment appropriations in order to allow it to fulfil its main purpose as an investment budget; is convinced that this role cannot be fulfilled if the EU fails to deliver on its commitments and thus endangers its credibility;

23.  Stresses that delays in the implementation of the 2014-2020 programmes under shared management led to a drop in payment claims for 2016 and 2017; is particularly concerned at the possible reconstitution of a backlog of unpaid bills towards the end of the current MFF period, and recalls the unprecedented level of EUR 24.7 billion reached at the end of 2014; welcomes the fact that the Commission, on the occasion of the MFF mid-term revision, provided for the first time a payment forecast until 2020, but stresses that this needs to be duly updated every year, in order to allow the budgetary authority to take the necessary measures in time;

24.  Underlines that, despite a final agreement on the MFF mid-term revision not yet having been reached, several positive elements of the revision that are currently under negotiation – notably in terms of increased flexibility – might prove to be instrumental in preventing and responding to a future payment crisis; believes that if the implementation of cohesion policy were to accelerate as anticipated the increased flexibility might be needed already next year, in order to ensure an adequate level of payment appropriations in the EU budget in response, and to avoid the accumulation of unpaid bills under cohesion policy at the end of the year;

25.  Reiterates its long-standing position that the payments of special instruments (the Flexibility Instrument, the EU Solidarity Fund, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund and the Emergency Aid Reserve) must be counted over and above the MFF payment ceiling, as is the case for commitments; underlines, in the context of the ongoing MFF mid-term revision, the potential progress achieved on the issue of budgeting the payments of the MFF special instruments with the revision of the 2014 Contingency Margin decision, even if the matter was not unequivocally resolved;

Looking forward

26.  Underlines that according to the MFF regulation, the Commission will put forward by the end of 2017 its proposals for the post-2020 MFF, which should take into account the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the EU which will impact on the post-2020 MFF; stresses that this decision makes it impossible to proceed with business as usual; attaches the utmost importance to the process leading up to the establishment of the new financial framework and a reformed and more efficient EU budget, and expects this to be commensurate to the challenges the Union is facing and to the commitments it has already entered into; calls for a swift and positive conclusion to the ongoing mid-term MFF revision that can ensure both the necessary adjustment of the current financial framework and the degree of additional flexibility of the EU budget that is indispensable for attaining the Union’s objectives;

27.  Underlines that the predictability and long-term sustainability of the EU budget is a prerequisite for a strong and stable European Union; stresses the need to align the duration of the MFF with the political cycles of both Parliament and the Commission; draws attention to the fact that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will provide an opportunity to address the long-standing issues which have prevented the EU budget from reaching its real potential, especially as regards the revenue side, in order to phase out all rebates and correction mechanisms; reaffirms its position in favour of an in-depth reform of EU own resources, and welcomes in this respect the presentation of the final report of the High-Level Group on Own Resources (HLGOR); invites all involved parties to draw the appropriate conclusions from this report and to analyse the feasibility of implementing the recommendations of the HLGOR that would help make the EU budget more stable, simple, autonomous, fair and predictable; expects that any new own resources should lead to a reduction in Member States’ GNI contributions; welcomes the conclusion of the HLGOR regarding the fact that the EU budget needs to focus on areas bringing the highest European added value and regarding the ‘juste retour’ approach, which should end, as it has been shown by the report that all Member States benefit from the EU budget, irrespective of their ‘net balance’;

28.  Encourages the Commission to continue developing and implementing the ‘EU budget focused on results’ strategy; underlines, in this regard, the importance of simplifying rules, streamlining the monitoring process and developing relevant performance indicators;

29.  Stresses that the principle of gender equality should be mainstreamed, wherever possible, as a horizontal policy objective in all titles of the EU budget;

30.  Stresses the importance of Parliament being fully involved in all budget-related matters, as the sole institution democratically elected by EU citizens;

31.  Calls on the Council to live up to its political statements and cooperate to ensure that the EU is equipped with an adequate budget;

32.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors.

(1)

OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 884.

(2)

OJ C 373, 20.12.2013, p. 1.

(3)

OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.

(4)

OJ L 168, 7.6.2014, p. 105.)

(5)

OJ L 51, 28.2.2017, p. 1.

General Market

Report – Guidelines for the 2018 Budget – Section III – A8-0060/2017 – Committee on Budgets

on general guidelines for the preparation of the 2018 budget, Section III – Commission

(2016/2323(BUD))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 314 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 of 2 December 2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020(1),

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 2 December 2013 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management(2) (hereinafter ‘the Interinstitutional Agreement’),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(3),

–  having regard to Council Decision 2014/335/EU, Euratom of 26 May 2014 on the system of own resources of the European Union(4),

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2017(5) and the joint statements agreed between Parliament, the Council and the Commission annexed thereto,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 21 February 2017 on the 2018 budget guidelines (6522/2017),

–  having regard to Rule 86a of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgets (A8-0060/2017),

A.  whereas 2018 will mark the fifth year of the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF);

B.  whereas the internal economic and social context as well as external challenges and political uncertainties are likely to uphold the pressure on the 2018 EU budget;

C.  whereas the budgetary reaction to immediate challenges and crises must go hand in hand with sustainable answers that invest in the Union’s common future;

A budget for sustainable growth, jobs and security

1.  Welcomes the important role played by the EU budget in delivering concrete answers to the challenges the EU is facing; stresses that decent, quality and stable jobs, particularly for young people, economic growth and socio-economic convergence, migration, security and tackling populism, as well as climate change, are the main concerns at EU level and that the EU budget remains part of the solution to these issues; stresses that solidarity must remain an underlying principle of the EU budget; underlines that only a strong and targeted EU budget with genuine European added value will benefit all Member States and EU citizens alike; expects the Commission to put forward a draft 2018 budget that enables the EU to continue to generate prosperity through growth and jobs and ensures the safety of its citizens;

2.  Believes that, while maintaining budget discipline, the EU budget must be equipped with the tools to enable it to respond to multiple crises simultaneously, a certain level of flexibility thus being required; is of the opinion that, while growth and jobs continue to remain the core priorities of the EU budget, obtaining sustainable progress and development in these fields has to be accomplished in parallel to addressing EU citizens’ concerns regarding safety and security; reiterates its call for thematic concentration when setting priorities for the 2018 EU budget;

Research, infrastructure and SMEs as key enablers of growth and jobs

3.  Underlines that enhancing the competitiveness of the EU economy, infrastructure, well-funded research, support for developing skills and the continued commitment of the EU to strengthening investment are key to ensuring economic growth and job creation; believes that the creation of socially and environmentally sustainable and well-paid jobs must be one of the main priorities of the EU budget; argues that jobs are created mainly by the private sector, and that adequate budgetary support therefore needs to be devoted to boosting investment in both private and public sectors, with special attention to SMEs; consequently underlines the importance of Heading 1a, which delivers real added value for European citizens and businesses, and calls for an appropriate level of funding for this heading to be ensured;

4.  Stresses that investment in research and innovation, including support for start-ups, represents a precondition for achieving genuine competitiveness in the EU and for ensuring an innovative and competitive EU economy on a global level; regrets the fact that, as a result of an inadequate EU funding in the field of research and innovation there is an alarmingly low success rate for applications, and that several high-quality projects in the field of research and innovation are being left without EU funding; notes that many interested parties, including SMEs, are being deterred from submitting Horizon 2020 project proposals; calls in this respect for an appropriate level of appropriations to be ensured for Horizon 2020, while continuing with its simplification agenda; underlines that an enhanced budget for Horizon 2020 should not be at the expense of other research programmes;

5.  Recognises the fact that SMEs remain the backbone of the European economy and will continue to play a decisive role in creating jobs and growth across the EU; considers also that SMEs are the main source of job creation and therefore need an appropriate access to finance; calls in this respect for COSME appropriations to be increased, taking into account the success of this programme; stresses the importance of strengthening the COSME programme in the new MFF in order to provide SMEs with more substantial support from the EU; believes that establishing synergies with other financial instruments would lead to better results;

6.  Strongly supports the further development and enhancement of interoperability of European infrastructure networks; considers that the financing of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is vital to achieving these objectives, and calls on the Commission to ensure an appropriate level of funding in 2018;

7.  Underlines the important role and potential of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) in reducing the investment gap which still exists in Europe, and recognises the positive results achieved so far; welcomes also the Commission proposal for extending the EFSI until 2020, which should aim to further improve its functioning, including application of the additionality principle and of geographical balance, for which further efforts are needed; underlines that the selection of projects financed through EFSI should be based on quality and demand-driven; welcomes the Commission’s intention to reinforce the role of the European Investment Advisory Hub in terms of providing more targeted local technical assistance across the EU and also to enhance geographical balance; also calls on the Commission to regularly analyse the added value of EFSI through impact assessment of the effects of the fund;

Education and youth employment – prerequisites for the success of the younger generation

8.  Considers education to be a prerequisite for sustainable, well-paid and stable jobs; underlines the importance of mobility as a means of enabling young Europeans to take advantage of people’s variety of skills while expanding opportunities for education, training and employment; welcomes in this respect the role played by Erasmus+ in facilitating the intra-European mobility of young students, apprentices and volunteers; believes that, especially in times of rising nationalism and populism, it is important to facilitate natural interaction between different European nations and cultures in order to enhance European consciousness and identity; calls, in this context, for the funding for the Erasmus+ programme to be further increased in 2018;

9.  Underlines that youth unemployment is one of the main concerns at European level, having a particularly high social impact, especially in the Union’s poorest regions, and that it puts at risk an entire generation of young Europeans, undermining long-term economic growth; stresses that, as part of the conciliation agreement for the 2017 EU budget, an allocation of EUR 500 million will be granted to the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), through an amending budget in 2017; considers YEI to be a fundamental contribution to the Union’s priority objective of jobs and growth, and remains firmly committed to securing adequate funding for fighting youth unemployment and continuing YEI up to the end of the current MFF, while at the same time improving its functioning and implementation; stresses in this respect the importance of the EU Youth Strategy;

10.  Takes positive note of the proposal to launch an ‘18th Birthday Interrail Pass for Europe’; underlines that this project has the potential to boost European consciousness and identity; stresses, however, that the project should not be financed at the expense of other successful EU programmes, notably in the field of youth and culture, and should be as socially inclusive as possible and contain provisions for including residents of Europe’s peripheral islands; asks the Commission to assess the potential cost and funding sources of this initiative and put forward relevant proposals;

Traditional EU budget priorities as investment policies

11.  Strongly supports regional policy as one of the main investment instruments of the EU budget ensuring economic, social and territorial cohesion; underlines that this policy generates growth and jobs in all Member States; is concerned, however, at the unacceptable delays in implementation of operational programmes at EU level under the current MFF, which have led so far to lower investment that has failed to contribute sufficiently to growth and job creation or to reducing economic, social and territorial disparities within and between European regions; calls on the Commission to identify the causes of the delays and on the Member States to cooperate in order to tackle them, in particular so as to ensure that the designation of managing, auditing and certifying authorities is concluded and implementation is sharply accelerated;

12.  Recognises the importance of the European agricultural sector in maintaining food security and managing biodiversity in the EU; expresses its full support for the farmers affected by the Russian embargo, avian flu, the dairy sector crisis and the meat crisis; calls on the Commission, therefore, to continue to support farmers across Europe in coping with unexpected market volatility and in securing safe and quality food supplies; requests that suitable attention be paid to small-scale farming and fisheries;

Internal challenges

13.  Is convinced that, under the current circumstances, the EU budget has proven to be insufficient to deal with the effects of the migratory and refugee crisis and corresponding humanitarian challenges or with the challenges in the security area such as increasing international terrorism; underlines that, on this basis, a sustainable solution must be found to this issue, as it has been demonstrated by the repeated mobilisation of special instruments such as the flexibility instrument that the EU budget was not initially designed to address crises of such magnitude; points out that a coherent strategy for tackling the migratory and refugee crisis, including clear, measurable and comprehensible objectives, has to be adopted; recalls, however, that the need to mobilise supplementary means to face these challenges should not take precedence over other important Union policies, for example in the field of jobs and growth;

14.  Welcomes the role played by instruments such as the Internal Security Fund (ISF) and the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in addressing the effects of the migratory and refugee crisis and corresponding humanitarian challenges, and calls for adequate budgeting in the coming years for these funds; reiterates the importance of the principle of burden-sharing among Member States in financing the efforts needed to adequately provide for refugees; welcomes also the role of the EU agencies in the area of justice and home affairs, such as Europol, the European Border and Coast Guard, EASO, Eurojust, the Agency for Fundamental Rights and eu-LISA, and calls, in this context, for their mandate to be executed on the basis of enhanced budgeting and staffing; is convinced that the EU needs to invest more in the strengthening and the management of its borders, enhancing cooperation between law enforcement agencies and national authorities and fighting terrorism, radicalisation and serious and organised crime by improving integration measures and practices, ensuring the interoperability of information systems, and guaranteeing sound return operations for those not entitled to international protection while fully respecting the principle of non-refoulement;

15.  Underlines that the current budget of the ISF (approximately EUR 700 million in commitments) is not sufficient for tackling the security challenges stemming from international terrorism; calls, therefore, for reinforced financial resources for bringing the security infrastructure up to a more adequate and modern level;

16.  Recalls the importance of European agencies in ensuring the implementation of the European legislative priorities and thereby accomplishing EU policy objectives, such as those related to competitiveness, growth, employment and to managing the current migration and refugee crisis; insists, therefore, that adequate financial and human resources be provided for both administrative and operational expenditure in order to allow the agencies to fulfil their assigned tasks and deliver the best possible results; with regard to the increases in staffing and appropriations for agencies since the 2014 budget, underlines the fact that these are regarded as part of new policy developments and legislation which do not enter in the calculation of the 5 % staff reduction target; stresses, therefore, that the 2018 budget should not foresee any further reductions in the European agencies’ establishment plans beyond the 5 % agreed on for each institution and body of the European Union in the framework of the Interinstitutional Agreement;

17.  Strongly supports initiatives in the field of defence research aimed at encouraging better cooperation between Member States and achieving synergy effects in the area of defence; stresses, however, that this activity should be endowed with fresh resources, as it is a new political initiative with a significant impact on the EU budget; calls, moreover, for the exploration of all possibilities for the financing of a defence research programme with a dedicated budget within the next MFF; recalls that, while the provisions enshrined in the Treaties must be respected, strengthened cooperation in the field of defence is a necessary option in order to meet the security challenges that the EU is facing, which are generated by prolonged instability in the Union’s neighbourhood and uncertainty regarding the commitment of certain of the EU’s partners to the objectives of NATO; underlines, furthermore, the need for improved competitiveness and innovation in the European defence industry that can contribute to stimulating growth and job creation; calls on the Member States to ensure adequate budgeting in order to tackle external challenges in a more congruent way; takes note of the establishment of the European Defence Fund, with its research and capability windows;

18.  Underlines that the EU budget must support the fulfilment of the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the EU’s own long-term climate goals by achieving the 20 % climate spending target in the 2014-2020 MFF; notes with concern that the EU’s 2020 biodiversity targets will not be met without substantial additional efforts; stresses, therefore, the importance of mainstreaming biodiversity protection across the EU budget, with particular focus on the LIFE programme and the Natura 2000 network;

External challenges

19.  Reaffirms its conviction that in order to tackle the root causes of the current migratory and refugee crisis and the corresponding humanitarian challenges, the EU needs to step up its role through investment in the countries of origin of the migratory flows; calls on the Commission in this regard to design a roadmap to tackle the migratory crisis in an effective way; stresses that greater strategic adjustment of all instruments of development policy is needed to ensure steady economic and social development while not undermining the implementation of the existing external policies; notes that investment in infrastructure, housing, education and medical services and support for SMEs, with a particular focus on job creation, social protection and inclusion, are part of the solution for tackling the root causes of migration; welcomes, therefore, as part of the solution to these challenges, the External Investment Plan (EIP), as a coherent and coordinated framework for promoting investment in Africa and in the Neighbourhood countries, keeping in mind that it needs to be fully aligned with and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals; expects that the EIP will promote sustainable development without compromising human rights, climate change mitigation or good governance, and that transparent management of the European Fund for Sustainable Development and its projects will be ensured;

20.  Notes that the current trend on the Commission’s part to resort to satellite budgetary mechanisms such as the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, trust funds and other similar instruments has not proved a success in all cases; is concerned that the establishment of financial instruments outside the Union budget undermines the transparent management of the budget and hampers the right of Parliament to exercise effective scrutiny of expenditure; maintains, therefore, its position that the ad hoc external financial instruments which have emerged in recent years must be incorporated into the EU budget, with Parliament having full scrutiny over the implementation of these instruments; stresses, however, that these instruments should not be financed at the expense of other existing external instruments; takes note of the divergence between Member States’ promises and their actual contribution to these funds, and urges the Member States to stand by their promises to match the contributions of the EU;

21.  Underlines that one of the conditions for preserving stability and prosperity in the EU is a stable EU neighbourhood; calls on the Commission, therefore, to ensure that priority is given to investment in the EU Neighbourhood in order to support efforts to tackle the main issues that this area is facing, namely the migratory and refugee crisis and corresponding humanitarian challenges in the Southern Neighbourhood, and Russian aggression in the Eastern Neighbourhood; reiterates that supporting countries which are implementing association agreements with the EU is pivotal to facilitating political and economic reforms, but stresses that such support should apply as long as those countries meet the eligibility criteria, especially as regards the rule of law and enforcing democratic institutions;

Sufficient payment appropriations resulting in increased credibility for the EU

22.  Reiterates its previous calls for providing the EU budget with an adequate level of payment appropriations in order to allow it to fulfil its main purpose as an investment budget; is convinced that this role cannot be fulfilled if the EU fails to deliver on its commitments and thus endangers its credibility;

23.  Stresses that delays in the implementation of the 2014-2020 programmes under shared management led to a drop in payment claims for 2016 and 2017; is particularly concerned at the possible reconstitution of a backlog of unpaid bills towards the end of the current MFF period, and recalls the unprecedented level of EUR 24.7 billion reached at the end of 2014; welcomes the fact that the Commission, on the occasion of the MFF mid-term revision, provided for the first time a payment forecast until 2020, but stresses that this needs to be duly updated every year, in order to allow the budgetary authority to take the necessary measures in time;

24.  Underlines that, despite a final agreement on the MFF mid-term revision not yet having been reached, several positive elements of the revision that are currently under negotiation – notably in terms of increased flexibility – might prove to be instrumental in preventing and responding to a future payment crisis; believes that if the implementation of cohesion policy were to accelerate as anticipated the increased flexibility might be needed already next year, in order to ensure an adequate level of payment appropriations in the EU budget in response, and to avoid the accumulation of unpaid bills under cohesion policy at the end of the year;

25.  Reiterates its long-standing position that the payments of special instruments (the Flexibility Instrument, the EU Solidarity Fund, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund and the Emergency Aid Reserve) must be counted over and above the MFF payment ceiling, as is the case for commitments; underlines, in the context of the ongoing MFF mid-term revision, the potential progress achieved on the issue of budgeting the payments of the MFF special instruments with the revision of the 2014 Contingency Margin decision, even if the matter was not unequivocally resolved;

Looking forward

26.  Underlines that according to the MFF regulation, the Commission will put forward by the end of 2017 its proposals for the post-2020 MFF, which should take into account the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the EU which will impact on the post-2020 MFF; stresses that this decision makes it impossible to proceed with business as usual; attaches the utmost importance to the process leading up to the establishment of the new financial framework and a reformed and more efficient EU budget, and expects this to be commensurate to the challenges the Union is facing and to the commitments it has already entered into; calls for a swift and positive conclusion to the ongoing mid-term MFF revision that can ensure both the necessary adjustment of the current financial framework and the degree of additional flexibility of the EU budget that is indispensable for attaining the Union’s objectives;

27.  Underlines that the predictability and long-term sustainability of the EU budget is a prerequisite for a strong and stable European Union; stresses the need to align the duration of the MFF with the political cycles of both Parliament and the Commission; draws attention to the fact that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will provide an opportunity to address the long-standing issues which have prevented the EU budget from reaching its real potential, especially as regards the revenue side, in order to phase out all rebates and correction mechanisms; reaffirms its position in favour of an in-depth reform of EU own resources, and welcomes in this respect the presentation of the final report of the High-Level Group on Own Resources (HLGOR); invites all involved parties to draw the appropriate conclusions from this report and to analyse the feasibility of implementing the recommendations of the HLGOR that would help make the EU budget more stable, simple, autonomous, fair and predictable; expects that any new own resources should lead to a reduction in Member States’ GNI contributions; welcomes the conclusion of the HLGOR regarding the fact that the EU budget needs to focus on areas bringing the highest European added value and regarding the ‘juste retour’ approach, which should end, as it has been shown by the report that all Member States benefit from the EU budget, irrespective of their ‘net balance’;

28.  Encourages the Commission to continue developing and implementing the ‘EU budget focused on results’ strategy; underlines, in this regard, the importance of simplifying rules, streamlining the monitoring process and developing relevant performance indicators;

29.  Stresses that the principle of gender equality should be mainstreamed, wherever possible, as a horizontal policy objective in all titles of the EU budget;

30.  Stresses the importance of Parliament being fully involved in all budget-related matters, as the sole institution democratically elected by EU citizens;

31.  Calls on the Council to live up to its political statements and cooperate to ensure that the EU is equipped with an adequate budget;

32.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors.

(1)

OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 884.

(2)

OJ C 373, 20.12.2013, p. 1.

(3)

OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.

(4)

OJ L 168, 7.6.2014, p. 105.)

(5)

OJ L 51, 28.2.2017, p. 1.

General Information

Text adopted – Preparation of the Commission Work Programme 2017 – P8_TA-PROV(2016)0312 – Wednesday, 6 July 2016 – Strasbourg – Provisional edition

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Political Guidelines for the European Commission entitled ‘A New Start for Europe: My Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change’, presented by Jean-Claude Juncker on 15 July 2014,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 27 October 2015 entitled ‘Commission Work Programme 2016 – No time for business as usual’ (COM(2015)0610) and Annexes I to VI thereto,

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making of 13 April 2016,

–  having regard to the Conference of Committee Chairs’ Summary Report, which provides complementary input to this resolution from the point of view of parliamentary committees and which the Commission should take duly into account when drafting and adopting its Work Programme for 2017,

–  having regard to its resolution of 28 June 2016 on the decision to leave the EU resulting from the UK referendum(1) ,

–  having regard to the European Council conclusions of 28-29 June 2016,

–  having regard to the contribution of the Committee of the Regions to the Commission’s 2017 Work Programme,

–  having regard to Rule 37(3) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the European integration process has brought peace and contributed to security and prosperity in Europe for decades;

B.  whereas Europe now faces many common and global challenges, but also increasing frustration and worry among many citizens about uncertain life prospects and a lack of opportunities that citizens expect decision-makers to respond to; whereas, if it is to succeed, the European Union cannot be reduced to an economic project; whereas it is urgent to win back the hearts of Europeans in favour of the European project and to strengthen economic, social and territorial cohesion;

C.  whereas the EU’s overlapping crises require effective European solutions, strongly anchored in a more democratic process through the community method, with the full involvement of the European Parliament and the national parliaments and in accordance with Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;

D.  whereas the EU is our common home and must offer a place of safety and a stable economic environment for its citizens; whereas sustainability and economic growth are compatible and can be mutually reinforcing; whereas it is important to bring the EU out of the lengthy economic crisis by stepping up sustainable investments, reducing disparities and implementing agreed policies and developing better ones, in particular by deepening the internal market and improving the Economic and Monetary Union;

E.  whereas we have chosen to pursue a common future, as a community based on shared values and cherishing the richness and diversity of our traditions and history; whereas we want Europe to play its role and take up its responsibility on the global stage, committed to solidarity, multilateralism, our external partnerships and promoting convergence on better standards; whereas we want to secure our common project of shared peace, prosperity and democracy, with a view to creating an appealing future for all generations;

Improving the working and living conditions of European citizens

1.  Recalls that Europe’s economic recovery has been modest and unbalanced, with many regions of the Union still experiencing unacceptable levels of unemployment, poverty, inequality and a severe lack of prospects for younger generations; the EU must work therefore towards a dynamic and inclusive labour market embedded in the European social market economy model, improving citizens’ living conditions and enabling fair mobility; is convinced that all EU citizens must count on a fundamental set of fair working conditions and access to quality education, social protection and essential services which enable a work-life balance and meet the needs of a modern labour market within the EU; recognises that at the heart of a competitive and inclusive economy is its capacity to leverage the talent of women and men in all activities;

2.  Calls on the Commission, to that end, to build on the ongoing public consultation and Parliament’s forthcoming report by putting forward, in line with the subsidiarity principle and Treaty objectives, a proposal on a European pillar of social rights, to be translated into concrete initiatives, in particular to:

  promote the accessibility and quality of early education, childcare and healthcare, which are crucial to ensuring that no child is left behind; the Commission should therefore reflect on further actions to develop social investment, and in particular to reduce child poverty;
  close the skills gap and ensure access to quality education, training and lifelong learning for all;
  reduce social inequalities and promote quality employment, especially for young people and the long-term unemployed in order to boost economic growth;
  address work-life balance challenges and the gender gap in pay and pensions;

3.  Stresses that the Commission should monitor, encourage and support Member States’ efficient and effective spending of funds to boost youth employment and the creation of quality employment, in particular in regions with high unemployment levels, through programmes for jobs and growth such as those financed by the Youth Employment Initiative, the European Structural and Investment Funds, the European Fund for Strategic Investments and the European Investment Bank;

4.  Emphasises that the Commission, in cooperation with the Member States and social partners, should also reinforce the European social dialogue with a view to better reconciling labour markets and social protection demands in order to address social inequalities and competitiveness challenges;

Strengthening economic recovery and long-term competitiveness with a view to creating jobs and generating prosperity

5.  Is convinced that the EU can be a world leader by unleashing the full potential of its single market and promoting entrepreneurship, fair competition and investment in innovation;

6.  Holds the view that the EU must foster a strong and diversified European business landscape; points out that the EU’s competition policy is instrumental to the functioning of its social market economy; stresses that, if it is to remain competitive, fit for purpose and future-proof, European industry must become sustainable and go digital; shares the Commission’s philosophy that Europe has to be big on big things and small on small things;

7.  Calls for re-launching the sustainable growth and employment strategy Europe 2020, with a real ambition for the future, in particular for improving our social market economy model and implementing structural reforms to modernise Member States’ economies and bring about widely shared prosperity; is convinced that boosting employment and productivity remains the top priority, and that the EU needs targeted investments to accelerate the transition towards an innovative, resource-efficient, digital economy with a view to reindustrialising Europe and reshoring jobs;

8.  Asks the Commission to design a new, ambitious industrial strategy building on and complementing the circular economy package; points out that additional private and public investments are needed for energy transition, eco-innovative SMEs, research and education;

9.  Calls on the Commission to propose more measures which would foster research and development, innovation, cultural diversity and creativity as key drivers of job creation, while bearing in mind that companies’, and in particular SMEs’, access to capital is vital in order to encourage development and production of new products and services in both traditional and emerging sectors and effective protection of intellectual property rights;

10.  Considers that the single market needs to be further integrated, in particular in the digital area, creating a fair environment for consumers and SMEs and removing unjustified barriers; is deeply convinced that a globally competitive, innovative, citizen-oriented digital single market is a possible way forward to respond to the challenges of the 21st century;

11.  Expects the Commission to mobilise all its powers and competences to promote a transition to a better growth model consistent with the principles of sustainable development which entails its economic, social and environmental dimensions;

Responding to climate change and ensuring energy security

12.  Recalls that efforts must be stepped up to achieve the Energy Union, which will guarantee energy security and affordable and sustainable energy for all citizens and businesses;

13.  Notes the human and economic consequences of climate disasters in Europe; highlights the importance of continuing to address the root causes of climate change, while ensuring the competitiveness of our industry, with an ambitious climate strategy, including energy efficiency;

14.  Calls for necessarily ambitious targets to be set at EU level for greenhouse gas reductions and renewables and energy efficiency for the post-2020 period, in line with the Paris COP 21 Agreement;

15.  Asks the Commission to develop a common strategy for energy and climate diplomacy that would address these global concerns;

16.  Asks the Commission to identify efforts to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, while mitigating possible economic and social impacts;

Ensuring a consistent response to the increased inflow of refugees

17.  Is of the opinion that the European Union must work out concrete solutions to address the refugee emergency, in particular by addressing its root causes, by strengthening cooperation with countries of transit and origin of migration flows and by using all available policies and instruments to ensure their stabilisation, rehabilitation and development;

18.  Encourages the Commission, in cooperation with the Member States, to pursue necessary humanitarian assistance and ensure decent living conditions in refugee camps, combined with longer-term development programmes, especially in the field of education;

19.  Points out that the EU asylum and migration policy is not fit for purpose and needs a fundamental rethink, based on Article 80 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; holds that no reform of the Common European Asylum System should lead to lowering the current level of protection in EU asylum law;

20.  Calls for systematic, enforceable programmes to be organised for the direct resettlement and relocation of asylum-seekers;

21.  Calls for conditions to be created within the EU for a well-managed reception of asylum-seekers that would ensure their safety and humane treatment, paying particular attention to the needs of vulnerable groups; stresses, at the same time, that sufficient resources must be guaranteed to ensure labour market integration and social inclusion of refugees;

22.  Asks the Commission to make proposals for establishing a proper EU economic and legal migration policy that builds on existing instruments for students, researchers and highly skilled workers, and in the longer term for establishing more general rules governing entry and residence for those third country nationals seeking employment in the Union with a view to filling the gaps identified in the EU labour markets;

23.  Believes that, as international migration is a global phenomenon that is growing in scope, complexity and impact, the EU and the rest of the international community must assume their respective responsibilities in this field;

Addressing the security concerns of citizens

24.  Stresses that internal and external security are increasingly linked;

25.  Urges the Commission, following the adoption of the proposal for a European Border and Coast Guard, to ensure its rapid start-up, and allocation of the necessary human and logistical capacities;

26.  Calls on the Commission, with a view to addressing the threats of terrorism and violent extremism, to monitor closely the transposition and implementation of EU counter-terrorism measures, including effective police and judicial cooperation, timely sharing of information among national authorities and through Europol and Eurojust, and measures to tackle emerging trends of terrorism financing;

27.  Calls on the Commission to mobilise expertise and technical and financial resources in order to ensure EU-level coordination and exchanges of best practices in the fight against violent extremism and terrorist propaganda, radical networks and recruitment by terrorist organisations through offline and online means, with a particular focus on prevention, integration and re-integration strategies;

28.  Urges the Commission and the Member States to ensure full implementation of security legislation already adopted; reiterates its call for an in-depth evaluation of the EU counter-terrorism strategy, assessing both the application of the adopted measures and their effectiveness; expects the Commission to update the security agenda as necessary in the light of the evolving terrorist threat;

29.  Calls on the Commission to present its announced proposals for a proper legal basis for the European Counter Terrorism Centre within Europol, proposals to improve and develop existing information systems, address information gaps and move towards interoperability, as well as proposals for compulsory information sharing at EU level, accompanied by necessary data protection safeguards;

Deploying an ambitious external action agenda: on neighbourhood and on the global system

30.  Calls for an ambitious the EU Global Strategy which positions the EU as a geopolitical player in a rapidly changing world, and expects the Commission and the European External Action Service to mobilise in a coherent way all EU external action instruments with a view to achieving improved global governance, wide convergence on better standards, improved security and stronger respect for human rights in the world; stresses, to that end, that the following key elements should be moved to the top of the EU’s external affairs agenda:

  promoting stability and prosperity in the EU’s neighbourhood, through initiatives fostering development, democracy, good governance and the rule of law, by enhancing civilian conflict prevention and reconciliation measures, and activities in the context of the common security and defence policy, including with the appropriate involvement of NATO, which, for those states which are members of it, remains the foundation of their collective defence and the forum for its implementation;
  reviving, with the support of the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the common security and defence policy, which can no longer be the weakest link in the EU integration process; the security environment requires European defence to become a fully fledged policy that provides equal security for, and shows equal concern for the vital security preoccupations of, all Member States; structures, mechanisms or tools that already exist must become an operational reality;
  moving forward the enlargement negotiation process by strengthening social, political and economic stability and democracy in the candidate countries, without concessions on the Copenhagen accession criteria;
  making development cooperation policy more effective and better coordinated, and coherent with other instruments of the EU’s external action; ensuring coherence and consistency between development and security policies, as they are interlinked, interdependent and mutually reinforcing;
  integrating the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Policy Coherence for Development (PCD) in the EU’s external and internal policies; urges the Commission to report on its plan for implementation, monitoring, follow-up and incorporation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs;
  promoting trade as an important instrument for fostering growth, jobs and competitiveness and promoting EU standards relating to human rights and sustainable development; the Union’s trade defence instruments must be modernised and vigorously applied, and non-standard methodologies used where appropriate;
  adopting solutions to counter hybrid threats and foster the resilience of the EU and Member States, as well as that of EU partners, notably in the EU neighbourhood;

Fair taxation policies for adequate resources

31.  Stresses that there has never been a more urgent need to step up the fight against tax evasion and tax avoidance, which represents potential income to national budgets of up to EUR 1 trillion; considers that these resources could have been spent on investing in the future, boosting employment and reducing inequalities;

32.  Underlines that the Commission must continue to act without delay to ensure that profits are taxed in the European countries where the economic activity actually takes places and value created; the EU should work towards a mandatory common consolidated corporate tax base, step up efforts to investigate tax-related state aid breaches, apply common rules on the use and transparency of tax rulings and pursue a determined common approach to close down tax havens;

33.  Calls on the Commission to include in its fight against tax evasion and tax avoidance an external dimension, including as regards profits that leave the EU without being taxed;

Strengthening the EU budget and financial instruments

34.  Is of the opinion that, in order to act effectively, the EU needs a new financial and fiscal strategy; considers that the Commission should, to this end, propose measures based on the following principles and elements:

  mobilising adequate resources swiftly; it is inevitable to reform the system of financing the Union by strengthening genuine own resources or introducing new ones, in order to make the Union budget more stable, more sustainable and more predictable; at the same time, it is important to respect the principle of universality and to improve transparency;
  for maximum results, EU budgetary instruments must be managed with close attention to performance and cost-effectiveness, while ensuring compliance and protecting EU financial interests;
  the EU should take steps to put together resources for responding to the challenges of high youth and long-term unemployment and the internal and external dimensions of the refugee emergency;
  after only two years of implementation, the multiannual financial framework (MFF) has reached its limits; furthermore, without a comprehensive mid-term revision of the MFF, the EU budget will be unable to address additional financial needs and new political priorities, and unable to avoid the resurgence of a payment crisis; calls on the Commission to present a review of the functioning of the MFF before the end of 2016 and to take decisive action to revise the ceilings of the MFF upward and expand its flexibility to respond to circumstances not foreseen in 2013;
  the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) needs to be managed in a way that enables all Member States to undertake high levels of strategic investment in line with the EFSI regulation and ensures that funding for investment is contributing to the transition to a sustainable economy and society; the Commission’s proposal for the EFSI’s next phase should be based on these objectives;
  effective implementation of cohesion policy for 2014-2020 should be accompanied by preparations for its post-2020 phase, respecting its true nature as set out in the Treaties, its importance for the development of the single market and its potential as an investment tool accessible to all regions in the EU; synergies between the European Structural and Investment Funds, the EFSI and other EU funding instruments should be strengthened with a view to accelerating smart, green and inclusive growth, with a credible balance between grants and financial instruments being developed and avoiding any decrease in cohesion policy budget;
  the Commission should present proposals to reduce the bureaucratic complexity of the CAP for farmers; the Commission should further devise improved instruments to deal with extreme crises on the agricultural markets; believes that framework legislation at EU level is necessary to tackle unfair trading practices in the food supply chain so as to ensure that European farmers and consumers may benefit from fair selling and buying conditions;

Completing the Economic and Monetary Union

35.  Insists on respecting the requirements in Union law regarding democratic accountability for decisions in the context of European economic governance;

36.  Holds the view that the EU needs to be working towards upward economic and social convergence, in full compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact rules and with the European Semester governance framework;

37.  Considers that the Commission should consistently improve its monitoring of debts, deficits and macroeconomic imbalances in a way that respects the Stability and Growth Pact and encourages economic growth and job creation, with increased attention to the euro area’s aggregate fiscal stance;

38.  Believes that the EU needs to improve the credibility, consistency, national ownership and democratic legitimacy of the European Semester in order to ensure that Member States implement the country-specific recommendations with structural reforms and investments aimed at modernising their economies and increasing competitiveness, pursue fiscal responsibility and tackle inequalities and imbalances;

39.  Calls for closer economic policy coordination with a view to addressing the euro area’s investment gaps and strengthening reform efforts in order to increase competitiveness and to sustain demand;

40.  Considers that the banking union needs to be completed, with risk-reduction measures going hand in hand with risk-sharing;

41.  Notes that the outcomes of the ongoing reflection on developing an Economic and Monetary Union fiscal capacity should be taken into account;

42.  Asks the Commission to present a consistent and well-substantiated set of proposals on completing the Economic and Monetary Union as identified by the Five Presidents’ Report;

Strengthening fundamental rights and democracy

43.  Is concerned that the ongoing crises have not only damaged the cohesion of European societies, but also shaken the faith of European citizens in democratic institutions at EU and sometimes national level; believes, therefore, that enhancing the EU’s democratic legitimacy and restoring trust in its capacity to serve the interests of citizens must be Europe’s highest priority;

44.  Recalls that many of today’s challenges, from climate change to asylum and migration, from financial markets to corporations’ supply chains, and from terrorist networks to failed and rogue states, are transnational and require European solutions defined through the community method, with the full involvement of the Commission and Parliament;

45.  Recalls that, as the guardian of the Treaties, the Commission is responsible for promoting the general interest of the Union (Article 17 TEU), namely peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples (Article 3 TEU); points out that Parliament also has a particular political responsibility in helping to overcome divisions between Member States, defend the general interest of Europeans and ensure democratic legitimacy for decisions taken at European level; calls on the Commission to ensure that all initiatives, including those of the European Council, are compliant with the provisions of the Treaties;

46.  Asks the Commission to take initiatives with a view to strengthening the European institutions and encouraging EU citizens to be more involved in European political life; calls for all the EU institutions to connect better with younger generations and their platforms for debate; believes that stronger actions are also possible to inform EU citizens about their rights, exploit the potential of the European Citizens’ Initiative and strengthen the role of the EU Ombudsman;

47.  Stresses that the Commission should put forward proposals for democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights, taking into consideration Parliament’s forthcoming report; believes that it should also continue to progress towards EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), taking into account the Court of Justice opinion on the matter and addressing the remaining legal challenges;

48.  Calls for all the EU institutions to strive for the highest possible standards of transparency, accountability and integrity and to fight conflicts of interest;

49.  Is committed to using all its tools and resources to act as a driving force in a renewed democratic process towards the reform of the European Union;

o
o   o

50.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission.