On 7 February, during a plenary session of the European Parliament (EP), the Parliamentary Secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, met with the head of the Conference of Committee Chairs and members of the Committee on Regional Development and the Committee on Budgets for a discussion on the state of affairs in drawing up the EU Multiannual Financial Framework, and its priorities. It was underlined during the meetings that it was vital to approve, in a timely manner, the EU’s budget for the next seven-year period, since only timely decisions would make it possible to avoid any disruptions in investments from the EU funds.
A meeting with Cecilia Wikström, the head of the Conference of Committee Chairs and Chair of the Committee on Petitions, addressed the involvement of the various parliamentary committees in forming an opinion on the Multiannual Financial Framework. The meeting of the Conference of Committee Chairs on Tuesday, 6 February, featured a debate on the formulation of a common EP position and the upcoming talks with the European Commission and the Council of the EU.
The parties also discussed issues within the competence of the Committee on Petitions, including an EP vote on 7 February on a resolution, “Protection and non-discrimination with regard to minorities”. Latvia approaches the minority rights with great responsibility, said Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica and underlined that state support for minorities in Latvia, including education in the minority languages, was greater than in any other EU country.
The conversation with Iskra Mihaylova, Chair of the Committee on Regional Development, dealt with the committee’s position on the future of the Cohesion Policy and the activities planned to advocate in favour of an undiminished role of the Cohesion Policy. Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica emphasised that the Cohesion Policy, or investments from structural funds, is the only instrument that provides solutions tailored to the needs of each individual region. Therefore, it is vital not to reduce funding channelled into the Cohesion Policy.
The Parliamentary Secretary noted that the Cohesion Policy, the aim of which is to stimulate regional development and economic growth, has a high value added and proven effectiveness. She said that in terms of the EU average, Latvia’s GDP had increased from 47% in 2004 to 64% in 2015. Since the accession to the EU, the socio-economic development of Latvia has been approaching the EU average level. Latvia has fully absorbed EU funding and, moreover, with low administrative costs. Therefore, to sustain the socio-economic convergence among the EU Member States and regions, Cohesion Policy investments should be kept at least at the present level, the Parliamentary Secretary underlined.
In a conversation with members of the Committee on Budgets, an equally close attention was paid to the future of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2020. Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica underlined that inequality should be eliminated between farmers in different Member States by ensuring an equal level of direct payments. Unequal direct payments distort competition between farmers in the EU, and it is vital that this situation be resolved, said the Parliamentary Secretary.
The Parliamentary Secretary and Jan Olbrycht, one of the EP’s permanent rapporteurs on the EU Multiannual Financial Framework after 2020, discussed the impact of Brexit on the EU’s multiannual budget and the need to ensure funding to respond to the new challenges facing the EU.
During her visit to the EP, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica met with Jean Arthuis, Chair of the EP Committee on Budgets and Isabelle Thomas, who, besides Jan Olbrycht, is an EP co-rapporteur on the EU’s post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework. There was also a meeting with Matthijs van Miltenburg, a member of the Committee on Regional Development.
The European Parliament is currently drafting two reports on the EU’s post-2020 multiannual budget. One of the reports focuses on the general MFF principles and its expenditure part, but the other – on the reform of the system of own resources, namely, revenues under the MFF. A decision by the Committee on Budgets on the reports is due end of February, while a vote at the EP plenary session is scheduled for this March.
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