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Economy

EU prepares for budget impasse and an inventive workaround on Next Generation EU 

EU Reporter Correspondent

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A senior European Commission official outlined the measures the EU would need to take should the EU fail to reach an agreement on the multi-annual 2021 - 2027 budget (MFF) and recovery package next week. 

The deal on the budget and the New Generation EU package was agreed after several days of negotiations in the summer. However, Poland and Hungary are threatening to veto the deal because of the agreement the German Presidency has reached with the European Parliament on rule of law conditionality.  

Time is running out and in order for the budget to be operational on 1 January, there would need to be an agreement between the Parliament and Council by Monday (7 December) on the budget for the first year of the seven-year budget, this would also require the agreement of heads of government at next week’s European Council (10-11 December) to the full budget package. In this scenario, it would then be rubber-stamped in a further conciliation (11 December) and placed before the European Parliament’s plenary (14-17 December) to be signed off.

The budget, but not as we know it

If the heads of government fail to reach an agreement next week it will automatically trigger the“provisional twelfths” (Article 315 TFEU) approach, which was last used in 1988. It is a mechanism that guarantees some degree of continuity and will be based on the current MFF. As the legal basis for some programmes expires at the end of the year, those programmes will not receive any further payment commitments. This includes major funding programmes, such as Cohesion Policy, the European research programme (Horizon Europe) and many more. It does not include pillar 1 of the Common Agricultural Policy, humanitarian aid and the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Rebates will also vanish as there won’t be a replacement decision on own resources in this scenario. 

The new annual budget would also have to take into account that the EU’s overall funds will be lower due to the failure to reach an agreement on own resources and lower GNI caused by the pandemic and Brexit. This could amount to as much as 25 to 30 billion euro.

Next Generation EU

Next Generation EU, which is discrete from and additional to the multi-annual budget, could be agreed upon by different means. The senior official ruled out the use of an inter-governmental conference and separate treaty as it would take too much time and would place the debt burden on individual states, rather than allowing the EU to hold the debt in its name. However, the Commission does think that a “Community-based solution” allowed under the current treaties would be possible. This could allow enhanced cooperation between a coalition of the willing, and would need a clear link to the EU’s treaties, for example, it could be allowed through the possibility in the treaty of channeling financial assistance to member states experiencing severe difficulties, caused by exceptional occurrences (Article 122), but the senior official eluded to other options.

The possibility of circumventing some of the damage caused by Poland, Hungary and possibly Slovenia’s veto could help to focus minds as an important week approaches.

Corporate tax rules

Commission launches new learning portal for tax and customs professionals across the EU

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Commission has launched a new EU learning portal offering tax and customs professionals across the EU an opportunity to build, upscale or share their knowledge on important topics in the field. Capitalising on the advantages of online learning, it aims to build common expertise and improve the skills of customs and tax professionals working in national administrations and authorities, businesses, academia and researchers in the field of tax and customs, with some specific content for staff of public administrations.

The new portal includes a combination of different learning formats – from self-paced learning and development to interactive exchanges of best practices - and should help to modernize customs and tax competencies in the EU by providing a new way for people working in the field to share experiences and knowledge. It can also help professionals to build common skillsets to address shared challenges, such as fraud, tax avoidance and digitalisation. Tax and customs play a vital role in our societies and in the functioning of the EU's Single Market by ensuring efficient revenue collection, contributing to the prosperity of businesses, supporting the safety and security of citizens, and by facilitating legitimate trade. Customs and tax professionals and their administrations and enterprises must be able to respond to and anticipate change to remain effective in a constantly evolving social, political and economic global context. More details and the new learning portal can be found here.

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Economy

Gentiloni says digital levy to fund NextGenerationEU will be proposed by summer

Catherine Feore

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Today (28 April) the European Parliament debated the future of a digital tax. In a report by Andreas Schwab MEP (EPP, DE) and by Martin Hlaváček MEP (Renew, CZ) the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee reporters and their colleagues in the Budget Committee called for a fairer outcome and the creation of a new ‘own resource’ to fund the NextGenerationEU and the recovery and resilience fund (RRF).

The MEPs would prefer to have an international agreement negotiated through the OECD Inclusive Framework (IF), but after many delays, MEPs say that a European solution needs to be prepared by the summer even if the IF process has not been resolved. 

Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni agreed with MEPs and said that the US administration did offer a new dynamic in resolving this question, nevertheless the EU would be coming forward with a proposal by the summer that would be compatible with the OECD process and which would respect the EU’s other international commitments, including those under the World Trade Organization. 

Gentiloni said that the two pillars - one based on allocation of taxes based on profits and the other on the need for a minimum corporate tax level - should not be treated separately and should be agreed as a package. 

Both MEPs and the commissioner were aware of the need to create the new ‘own resource’ mandated by heads of government and needed to pay back debt accrued in helping the EU’s COVID-hit economy recover. The deadline for the new resource to become operational is the start of 2023.

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European Central Bank (ECB)

Lagarde reiterates need for timely ratification of own resources decision

Catherine Feore

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European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde confirmed that the ECB would maintain its very accommodative monetary policy stance. The Governing Council will continue to conduct net asset purchases under the pandemic emergency purchase programme (PEPP) and expects purchases to be conducted at a significantly higher pace than during the first months of the year.

Lagarde said that the eurozone still had a long way to go before phasing out of monetary easing. She compared the situation to an economy on crutches, that has to cross the bridge of the pandemic, and in the meantime it needs two crutches, one fiscal and one monetary.

On national fiscal policies, Lagarde said an “ambitious and co-ordinated” approach remained crucial as a premature withdrawal of support would delay recovery and amplify long term scarring effects. She said firms and households would need ongoing support. 

At a European level, she said the ECB Governing Council reiterated the need for a timely ratification of the own resources decision, to finalize recovery and resilience plans promptly and the need for the NextGenerationEU programme to become operational without delay. She said that this could contribute a faster, stronger and more uniform recovery and thereby add to the effectiveness of monetary policy in the eurozone.

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