The European Semester is the EU tool that provides a framework for the coordination of economic and social policies. For the first time, owing to reforms and investments, we have both recommendations and the financial means to implement such recommendations.
According to the Commission’s proposal, the Member States have to present their national recovery programmes, which will be assessed by the Commission, and its approval is subject to a comitology procedure.
Since Parliament is also a budgetary authority and has say on expenditure, both Parliament and the Council should be on equal footing when it comes to defining the general strategic guidance, envisaged reforms and investments. They should also be part of the discussion in general.
On 02 July 2020, Portuguese Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Margarida Marques of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, sent a question to the European Commission.
MEP Marques requested specific answers on “why did the Commission propose using a comitology procedure in this instrument?” and “how does it plan to put Parliament and the Council on equal footing in the decision-making process?”
Lastly, MEP Marques enquired “why isn’t the Commission the sole management authority responsible for the disbursement of funds?”
On 02 December, Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni responded on behalf of the European Commission. “Given the unprecedented size and importance of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) and the need for national ownership of the funded reforms and investments, the Commission proposed to carry out its implementation through the examination procedure under the comitology regulation” answered Gentiloni.
He also explained that “the comitology is the way to ensure the oversight of the Member States over the Commission’s exercise of implementing powers conferred on it, notably for the implementation of a spending programme” and “an involvement of the Parliament under the examination procedure is not foreseen under the comitology regulation”.
Commissioner Gentiloni reported that “the Commission proposal, however, provides for an extensive information sharing with the Parliament” and “the Commission will: (i) Transmit the recovery and resilience plans as approved in the implementing acts without undue delay (Article 21); (ii) Provide an annual report on the implementation of the RRF, including information on the progress of implementation of the recovery and resilience plans (Article 24); and (iii) Provide evaluation reports (after 4 years and ex-post) (Article 25)”.
Also, he added “as far as the RRF financial envelope for grants (which constitutes external assigned revenues in accordance with Article 21 of the Financial Regulation) is concerned, the Commission is subject to the discharge procedure by the Parliament, based on a recommendation from the Council” and “the Commission also looks forward to exploring additional avenues to increase the cooperation with the Parliament under the RRF, while being also mindful of the importance of speed in the assessment of Member States’ recovery and resilience plans and the fulfilment of milestones and targets leading to disbursements”.
Commissioner Gentiloni asserted that “these provisions give the Parliament a clear and unambiguous role to control the actual use of RRF funds and to hold countries and the Commission accountable, while also raising the attention beyond single decisions and procedures to ensure an overarching political endeavour” and “the Court of Auditors will also have the possibility to carry out audits on the use of the amounts”.
Finally, the Commissioner reassured that “the agreement reached at the European Council of 17-21 July 2020 ensures that the Commission remains solely responsible for the management of the RRF as far as the disbursement of the funds is concerned, in line with its prerogatives under the Treaty”.
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