EU Parliament Begins Budget Debate

The European Parliament Thursday is considering the 27-nation bloc’s next long-term budget days after European Union leaders hammered out a massive COVID-19 economic recovery package for the region that included steep budget cuts to help pay for it.The budget, worth $1.2 trillion, was negotiated in tandem with a $868 billion economic recovery package that aims to help EU countries bounce back from the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic.Hailed as an “historic” moment for Europe by many EU leaders, the deal has however raised concerns among European lawmakers, who slammed its lack of ambition in the context of the economic crisis triggered by the virus.In a speech delivered to European lawmakers, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen admitted that the seven-year budget deal and recovery package adopted this week after a marathon leaders’ summit contains cuts that are “a difficult pill to swallow.” She said there are “regrettable and painful decisions on many programs.”European lawmakers, who have no vote on the recovery package but do have the final say in approving the budget to which it is linked, are expected to vote later Thursday on a resolution that strongly criticizes the conclusions of the summit.A final vote on the budget at the EU Parliament is not expected to take place before the end of the year.Many cuts were agreed to under pressure from a group of wealthier countries known as the “Frugals,” which were also offered large reductions to their contributions to the bloc’s budget to secure a deal.Speaking to reporters Wednesday, European Parliament President David Sassoli pledged to reverse cuts to climate research and to pass measures that would withhold recovery funds from nations not supporting democratic values.