EU Friday – 17 May

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EU Friday

Welcome to Better Europe’s weekly update on EU Affairs.


Eurogroup Finance Ministers this week presented their “first step towards delivery” of the future of the Capital Markets Union package, endorsing a one page high-level roadmap with six steps to be taken in the coming year. By focusing on the timing of key steps in the process, the statement tries to cover up the cracks in between Member States, with some calling for faster integration and the introduction of unified European-level supervision for the largest financial markets players, while others are pulling the emergency break. French President Emmanuel Macron and outgoing European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni are clearly in the first group, using public statements to warn that the alternative means Europe will end up with several fragmented Capital Market Unions, in plural. On the more productive side, Finance Ministers meeting a day later did find agreement on faster reimbursements for withholding tax, and on the controversial subject of financial literacy, which is good for citizens but even more “of utmost importance if we wish to channel dormant savings towards productive investment projects”, according to Belgian MinFin Vincent Van Peteghem. There is one more ECOFIN session left during the Belgian Presidency on 21 June, right before the Summit where EU leaders are expected to endorse the EU Strategic Agenda for the next Commission mandate.


It was a busy week for the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) – the celebration of its 50th birthday, the release a European Pact for the Future, and a statement on a social and green investment plan. The Pact, addressed to the incoming European Commission and Parliament, aims to encourage the new policymakers to continue with the ambitious agenda that fosters a green and socially just transformation. As its “head of the list”, the EEB chose the goal of a green and social deal within planetary boundaries. Among the other 11 points, the EEB asks for a reduction in resource use, given its negative environmental and social impact in the Global South, a better investment plan and taxation system, as well as participation of youth and marginalised groups. A few days after, together with four other NGOs in the Green 5, the EEB released a social and green investment plan. The NGOs call for a European Social and Green Investment Plan that would unlock €1 trillion by 2030 under a reformed EU budget (MFF) and a new fund via joint borrowing to achieve a socially fair transition.


Following half a year of negotiations, four right-wing parties in the Netherlands agreed to form a government lead by Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV). The agreement shows a reshuffle of socio-economic priorities, with cheaper healthcare, social housing obligations for new constructions and almost free child day-care, paid by cuts in public broadcasting financing, development aid NGO subsidies and academic education budgets, as well as increased VAT on journalistic services. The new government is also raising the maximum speed on highways at daytime back from 100 to 130 km/h, but most importantly heading straight for a crash with the EU on migration policy and nitrogen deposits, which was actually a reason to reduce the maximum speed a few years ago. The most likely Prime Minister is Ronald Plasterk, a former social-democrat minister who is still carries a PvdA party card but has moved to the hard right over the last decade. Beyond the government, what does this mean for Europe, or more precisely, for the 31 Dutch MEPs to be elected to the European Parliament? As elsewhere, the EP elections are often a popularity test for the current national government, but in this scenario typical right-wing protest voters have fewer reasons to show up at the polling stations. As a consequence, the Netherlands might see a rather progressive set of MEPs, particularly if there is a low turnout, which usually hovers below 40% but saw an uptick in 2019 at 42%. The Dutch are the first to vote on Thursday 6 June, this time without the Brits, and despite EU rules to wait until Sunday evening, Dutch media are expected to communicate detailed exit polls on Thursday evening.