On Thursday, 17 November 2022, MEPs Irena Joveva and Klemen Grošelj (Renew Europe) organised an event called “The Liberation Front for Media and Democracy” to analyse the state of media freedom and the contemporary challenges of journalism in Slovenia and beyond. Joveva pointed out that ensuring quality and professional journalism requires constant effort, because once the public media serve nothing more than the propaganda of one political party, it is very difficult to get back on an even keel.

In addition to the two MEPs, the event was also attended by journalist and former editor and TV presenter Tone Hočevar, research fellow at the Faculty of Social Sciences and former secretary at the Ministry of Culture Tanja Kerševan Smokvina, and journalist at the newspaper Večer and teaching assistant at the Faculty of Social Sciences Blaž Petkovič.

Stéphane Séjourné, President of Renew Europe, and Sabine Verheyen, Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education, also welcomed the roundtable participants and live web stream viewers with a video address.

The discussion revolved, among other things, around the European legislation in this area, in particular the European Media Freedom Act. The interlocutors agreed with MEP Joveva’s view that a single legislative proposal will unfortunately not solve all the problems in the media field, but stressed that it was important that things were moving in the right direction. Joveva, who is likely to act as Renew Europe Group’s rapporteur on this file, gave her full commitment to help draft the text in a way that would address as wide a range of issues as possible in the field of the media and, above all, guarantee the media’s autonomy, freedom, professionalism and the best possible working conditions.

Grošelj, meanwhile, expressed his concern about the fact that the issue of media freedom and democratic standards must be dealt with in 21st-century Europe. In his view, one should not overlook that the worsening of the media situation is a deliberate process, which is closely linked to the increasing radicalisation of society and to which Slovenia is not immune either. He also stressed that the media space, which used to be occupied by the public media, will be taken over by capital with its own interests, which will not be identical to the public interest.

Tanja Kerševan Smokvina agreed with this opinion but welcomed the fact that the marketing aspect of media law is moving towards greater protection of democratic standards and human rights: “The scientific research community welcomes the shift from strictly marketing approaches to a more scientific approach in media law. “At the same time, she is pleased with the greater commitment and courage shown by the European Commission, as attempts to change the media landscape have often been diluted by the power of big lobbies and pressure from corporations:

Often these initially good intentions have been diluted by the interests of Member States and large corporations, which have always lobbied hard.

Blaž Petkovič spoke about the importance of actively monitoring changes in the media sector and in the legislation governing it: “I think it is important that every time politicians strive to change legislation, we pay close attention. And that we ask ourselves what the purpose might be. What are the changes they are trying to achieve? What is behind it? Who is assisting the endeavours? Who is lobbying? In brief, there have been sufficient attempts in our region where we didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes and for that reason we really need to be on guard and follow the developments in the media policy.”

Tone Hočevar opined that so far no media freedom legislation could be successfully adopted in Slovenia because this is what has often suited the people in charge:

“I am talking, first and foremost, about the public service media, and about RTV in particular. And so far no party has been willing to put a stop on political influence or to step on the gas to see such legislation through.

The speakers concluded the event by expressing their hope that this time, however, the situation will change for the better through legislative changes to be adopted at the national and European levels. In her final words, MEP Joveva called to remove politics from the governing bodies, to put in place sufficient safeguards at all levels to ensure the sustainable independence of the public service media, to create the conditions for the replication of a culture of professionalism in the public service media, and to ensure not only that the public service media are financially sustainable and independent, but also that viewership and influence of critical reporting in the public service media is maintained given the current technological world and the need to counter misinformation, threats to journalists and the erosion of their credibility.

The debate is accessible on this LINK.

“ENVI. In the Brussels bubble, we all know what this stands for, but of course, before coming here, I didn’t. If someone had mentioned ENVI to me then, I would probably first think that they meant ‘envy’.  But no, it has nothing to do with envy.

Mind you …  Perhaps our colleagues from other countries could indeed be a little envious, at least because of the news I am about to share with you.

To start: ENVI stands for the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. Slovenian members of this committee include Milan Brglez, Ljudmila Novak and myself.

And in this committee, Slovenian MEPs – proportionally to the delegation’s size – are among the best performing when it comes to health-related legislative activities!

I often hear phrases like “Slovenia is not really achieving much in the EU” or “what can you do, we’re simply too small” … Which is why I was really pleased to hear about the analysis by EU Matrix, a Brussels-based think-tank that focuses on EU policy research. I am proud that our work is being noticed.

This does not mean, of course, that we have done enough. There is still a lot of work to be done. To focus on the priorities, this includes the proposal to regulate the European Health Data Space, which is first and foremost about supporting people to take control of their own health data, but also about enabling the EU to fully exploit the potential offered by the secure exchange, use and re-use of health data. Another key issue will be, for example, the European Medicines Strategy, which could have a very significant impact on the further development of medicines in Europe and on their accessibility, which is very important in tackling diseases, especially rare diseases or their new, yet unexplored forms.

This committee is responsible for a number of topical policy areas next to public health, including climate change, biodiversity protection, the circular economy, the use of chemicals and pesticides … It is the largest committee in the European Parliament.

I also worked on health in the Special Committee on Beating Cancer, which concluded its work by adopting a European strategy for the fight against this insidious disease. I am now a member of the Special Committee on the COVID-19 pandemic. I am also actively involved in various intergroups focusing on improving public health, such as the intergroups on cancer, on people with disabilities, on climate change, on biodiversity and on sustainable development, all of which I believe help to find opportunities to improve the current situation and to take action in the interests of all the Union’s citizens.”

Details of the analysis can be found here: https://eumatrix.eu/…/mep-influence-index-2022-top-5…

– Irena

As a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education delegation, MEP Irena Joveva took part in a working visit to Budapest, where they were briefed on the current situation in the fields of culture, education and media. Following the mission, Joveva remarked, among other things, that media freedom and academic freedom should be a given in any society. She said that after the visit she was only more convinced that under the current government Hungary cannot be considered a democracy in the full sense of the word.

The Culture and Education Committee will be responsible for the upcoming European Media Freedom Act ­— to which Ms Joveva will contribute as a rapporteur on behalf of her political group Renew Europe —, therefore the mission revolved around the discussions on media freedom, media concentration, pluralism and the workings of propaganda. And of course, there was no avoiding discussions on developments in the field of education, particularly in the light of the teachers’ strikes in Hungary.

During the three intensive mission days, MEPs held conversations with all key stakeholders in these areas. They met, among others, Budapest Deputy Mayor, Anett Bősz, Members of the Hungarian Parliament, the Minister of Culture and Innovation, János Csák, the Minister of Regional Development, Tibor Navracsics, representatives from Hungary’s National Media and Infocommunications Authority, representatives from the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music, the Hungarian Academy of Science and the Central European University, and figures from the media and civil society, including NGOs dealing with refugees, with whom they discussed in particular the situation of school-age children and young people.

Below you will find a press release by MEP Irena Joveva with a more detailed statement on the current findings of the visit to Budapest, which will be followed by a more detailed analysis and the delegation’s official conclusions in the coming weeks.

Press statement by Irena Joveva MEP after the mission to Hungary (only available in Slovene)

Investing in modern technologies for a green transition. It sounds logical to aim for that, doesn’t it? But let me tell you something: at the moment, energy companies investing in fossil fuels can sue our country because our strategic orientations are harming their profits. It defies logic, does it not?

Let’s start at the beginning. ECT is the acronym for the Energy Charter Treaty. It sounds great because we are stronger together and we like to work with others on the international stage. Energy is something we all need – both in our private lives and for our economy. Everything would be ‘fine’ if this treaty did not allow foreign companies’ investments in the fossil fuel industry to be protected against loss of profits. Not only are current investments insured … any hypothetical loss of profits for several years in advance, some for as long as two decades, are also insured. Profits that have not yet been made and might never be made. Profits that are themselves a result of robbing nature. Profits that will not encourage a greener direction.

What is most absurd about this treaty is that any dispute between companies and the state under this treaty is settled by bypassing the courts – both Slovenian and international – through private arbitration tribunals. Out of sight. Ignoring the Constitution. Ignoring the protection of citizens’ interests.

To give you an example: the British company Ascent Resources is suing Slovenia, claiming that Slovenia’s legislative changes have harmed their investment in an estimated amount of half a billion euros. Half a billion. Five hundred million. The dispute began when the Slovenian Environment Agency (ARSO) requested an environmental impact assessment for gas extraction in Petišovci, and the company estimated that this would probably harm their profits. Probably. It beggars belief!

I therefore warmly welcome the announcement by the Minister of Infrastructure, Bojan Kumer, that Slovenia intends to withdraw from the Treaty. The ECT is an obstacle to the green transition and runs contrary to both the strategic commitments of the Paris Agreement and the EU’s climate policy. It has long ceased to serve its purpose and is  only being used by huge companies that feel that they ‘are being wronged’. Is it wrong that, in the long term, we want to move towards non-polluting technology? Is it wrong that we want to encourage development and financial investment in the green transition? In both cases, the answer is, of course, negative.

There have also been attempts to fundamentally change the treaty. European countries have tried in vain to introduce sensible changes to the treaty and make it fit for the for climate-change-related insights. Well, it seems that others are not aware of the consequences resulting from treaties such as this one. We have pointed them out and tried to change things for the better. It all fell on deaf ears – and so we withdraw. Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, France have done it before us, and Belgium is steering in this direction as well. Now it is Slovenia’s turn.

Businesses need to start recognising that their only objective should not be to generate pure profit, but also to work for the well-being of people, society, the environment and the planet. Profit does not translate only into money. It also translates into one’s legacy – technological, economic and environmental. It is the latter that we keep forgetting.

Just as the disputes under this treaty have been resolved behind our backs, it is now time for us to turn our back on this treaty.

So long, ECT!

On Tuesday, 25 October 2022, MEP Irena Joveva and co-signatories sent a letter to Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, calling for amendments to the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure in the articles relating to the voting procedure. She wrote, among other things, that first and foremost, accountability derives from transparency, which is only partially enabled under the current voting system.

In her letter, the MEP pointed out that the current voting method, which usually involves a show of hands, is disorganised, which is particularly problematic in plenary sessions. She stressed that the biggest issue is the lack of transparency, therefore all votes should be taken by roll call.

She noted that amending the Rules of Procedure was not uncommon, and that the Rules had previously been adapted in the interest of transparency. She and the co-signatories called for an amendment to Rule 187(1), which states that “As a general rule, Parliament shall vote by show of hands”. She pointed out that this approach permits MEPs as elected representatives to hide their votes and avoid their positions being known to the public, which Joveva strongly opposes.

She added that the current voting method through a show of hands is time-consuming and that, despite the excellence of interpreters, there are delays in interpreting. Furthermore, the vice-president chairing the voting session is often unable correctly to assess the majority, which can lead to mistakes, even wrong voting results.

The MEP also pointed out that during the pandemic, all votes were taken by roll call, which she believed had proven to be very efficient. She added that for democracy to function, it is necessary to strive to ensure transparent operation and accountability to the citizens of the European Union.

As the main point of the letter, the MEP emphasised: “In our work, we represent all EU citizens, which means we must actualize the legitimacy of our work by being accountable to them. As we know, accountability derives from transparency.”

Letter on amending the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament to increase transparency (English version)

Letter on amending the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament to increase transparency (Slovenian version)

On Wednesday, 26 October 2022, MEP Irena Joveva (GS/RE) was invited by her colleague Valter Flego to address the participants of the LABINA: connecting Europe through art and tolerance event, where they talked about how culture serves European integration. Joveva pointed out that culture builds bridges – be it between people of different ages, religions or languages, or between countries themselves. Culture, she said, provides us with knowledge, tolerance, empathy, admiration and beauty.

With this in mind, the MEP would like to see more similar events taking place throughout the Balkans, as it is only through getting to know different cultures and cultural heritage that we can truly grow.

“Together we can improve lives and transform them for the better.”

To watch the recording of the address, click here.

Last week, in plenary, we voted in favour of the Report on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States. To a varied degree, the Union’s employment policy has existed since 1997, and the updated guidelines we have adopted this time form part of the European Semester package. This means that the guidelines are set depending on the actual needs that emerge in a given calendar year. From the outset of this term, we have stressed the importance of social policies, whether in relation to the green transition or in the context of ensuring adequate standards for all citizens of the Union. The focus on social policies has brought us from the very successful 2021 Porto Social Summit to the adoption of a new Action Plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

This time, we are setting new, significantly revised guidelines for Member States’ employment policies for 2022, as the successful functioning of the semester cycle is more important than ever.  As expected, we are updating the guidelines in response to the changed environment left behind by COVID-19, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and, finally, the continuing drive to achieve a just green transition, also in the light of the current energy crisis, so that Member States can respond successfully to all challenges. The report adds four new guidelines to those previously set out (Guidelines 5-8):

 

Guideline 5: Boosting the demand for labour

The main objective of this guideline is to encourage Member States to move towards a sustainable social market economy, while supporting investment in the creation of quality jobs by reducing barriers to employment, fostering responsible entrepreneurship and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises. Another important aspect is the promotion of the social economy and the strengthening of business models which create job opportunities in the circular economy. We also particularly stress the importance of reducing working hours and supporting employment restructuring mechanisms along the lines of the model used actively during the pandemic. At that time, we discovered that considerable benefits and potential could be derived by departing from the existing working time schemes, and now it is time to apply the knowledge and take the necessary step further.

 

Guideline 6: Enhancing labour supply and improving access to employment, skills and competences

This guideline focuses in particular on achieving the objectives of the digital and green transition, tackling demographic change and the war in Ukraine. In the light of life-long skills acquisition, Member States should promote sustainability, productivity, employability and human capital in their employment policies. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has designated 2023 as the Year of Skills, a point which is particularly emphasised in this guideline. We believe that the key to tackling employment policies lies in increased investment in education and training systems – vocational education and training, access to digital learning and language training will be the measures to ensure that the workforce can adequately and appropriately adapt to current and future labour market needs. The whole process must be geared towards harnessing the potential of individuals, supporting access to education for all and increasing the attractiveness of vocational education. We also need to ensure a smooth transition to the labour market, through work-based learning and paid apprenticeships or traineeships. The measures to reduce youth unemployment continue to be advocated as an important objective.

 

Guideline 7: Enhancing the functioning of labour markets and the effectiveness of social dialogue

This guideline calls on Member States to reduce and prevent labour market segmentation as well as to fight undeclared work and bogus self-employment effectively. Employment policy must strive for modernisation, which is why we need to regulate the field in such a way as to allow flexible work arrangements for employees, such as teleworking, but considering workers’ working hours, appropriate working conditions and work-life balance. With increasing digitalisation, new forms of employment and employment relationships are being created, and Member States must strive to tackle atypical contracts, which are the most frequently exploited and lead to precarious working conditions.

 

Guideline 8: Promoting equal opportunities for all, fostering social inclusion and fighting poverty

Countries must promote inclusive labour markets by putting in place effective measures to fight all forms of discrimination. As in most Members States social protection systems are outdated and not adapted to the current situation, they should be modernised in order to provide adequate, effective and sustainable social protection throughout all stages of life. Adequate measures must be in place to eradicate poverty and social exclusion — including in-work poverty and child poverty. The universal provision of basic services and basic income can be an important measure that will do just that. In setting the targets, we have not forgotten about a clean and fair energy transition, where we particularly stress that Member States must take special care of socially disadvantaged populations. I am extremely pleased that the report also mentions the provision of adequate and sustainable pension schemes for employees. We have been talking for years about a solution for adequate long-term care provision in Slovenia, and every time it gets stuck at the funding — the inclusion of adequate employee pension schemes is the measure that will help to make it happen.

In addition to setting out the main objectives, the Report on the guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States also underlines the importance of using the resources of the Next Generation EU and the Recovery and Resilience Facility, which, together with the implementation of the national plans and the planned reforms, will be an important instrument for the implementation of the defined guidelines.

I believe that an important step towards tackling financial issues can be taken by setting up a temporary European social resilience package proposed in the report, which aims to coordinate a set of measures and means to strengthen social welfare and social protection systems.

I am pleased with the adopted report, the guidelines are fit for purpose and the objectives are specific. If properly implemented, all citizens of the Union will live better lives.

First of all, I would like to stress that in this article, I do not wish to analyse the war in Ukraine, question the EU’s sanctions against Russia or the geopolitical creation of a multipolar world. All of those are facts and the reason for (more than) the current energy crisis in the EU. I wish, however, to look at the facts, the EU actions (taken thus far), the current European-level discussions, and above all, the biggest challenges.

The Financial Times recently reported that since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, EU Member States have passed the €100 billion milestone spent on fossil fuels (coal, gas, oil). According to Eurostat, overall gas consumption in the EU has fallen by 11% in this period, while consumption of oil products and coal has risen (by 8% and 19%, respectively). The sanctions on coal came into force in August and supplies have been completely cut off. The sanctions on petroleum products will enter into force at the beginning of next year — with some exceptions for eastern countries. Meanwhile, the EU has not introduced any sanctions on gas, which Russia is skilfully using in its hybrid energy war waged against the EU, or rather the West. Recently, the European Commission revealed that the EU has cut Russian gas deliveries through pipelines from around 40% to 7.5% of total EU consumption. As we know, a significant volume of gas still flows through the pipeline crossing Ukraine and leading to Central Europe, Italy and other countries, while deliveries to some countries were cut off some months ago. It is less well known that Russian LNG (liquefied natural gas) sales have reached a record high this year, with 80% sold to the countries in Europe and Asia that imposed sanctions on Russia. LNG, in addition to gas from Norway and Algeria, has generally been the largest substitute for Russian pipeline gas and in the coming years, the trend is expected to increase, given that a complete phase-out of Russian gas is expected.

While Member States have to a large extent filled up their storage facilities and reduced gas consumption ahead of the winter, this year, storages were partly replenished with the otherwise limited gas inflow from Russia. In 2023, the target will be harder to reach. Unreasonable pricing and market dysfunction are, of course, having a major impact on the competitiveness of our economy and on the social situation of Europeans. But at the same time, it is worth pointing out that this year, Member States, including Slovenia, have collectively allocated €500 billion of public funds to energy measures to mitigate such hardship, according to Bruegel’s calculations. This figure does not include Germany’s recent announcement of a €200 billion aid package, which has upset other Member States because it could lead to the distortion of the internal market. Germany’s fiscal capacity would allow it to subsidise its companies more and thus make them more competitive than companies in those Member States that might not have such fiscal headroom. What is more, at the same time, Germany with some other countries and (apparently) the European Commission have been blocking the gas price cap proposal for several months. The fear was that the cap could lead to gas shortages, although Belgium, which has been pushing for this proposal at least since March, has been maintaining that the cap would be made flexible, that the price would still be higher than, say, in Asia, and that it would also send out sufficiently clear ‘price signals’ to keep the gas flowing. Indeed, not long ago, the price of gas in the EU was ten times the US price and twice the Asian price. This, of course, has an additional impact on the price of electricity, as has been explained ad nauseam. However, the reason for such a high price in the EU is not only linked to a shortage of gas, but to Member States outbidding each other, trying to fill their storage facilities, which was first revealed by some European newspapers, and has recently also  been publicly stated by senior representatives of the European Commission on several occasions, and was also mentioned in a joint Dutch-German non-paper.

But first, let us return to the distortion of the single market. As a result of this, the EU quite rightly relaxed the rules on subsidising the economy and on the budget deficit under The State Aid Temporary Framework, i.e. the temporary rules on state aid, during the epidemic. Since then, these loose rules have only been extended — in the face of constant crises. Germany has, however, separately committed to respecting its fiscal rule next year and will now, in fact, be borrowing the aforementioned 200 billion in advance as a precaution.

Perhaps the most meaningful and articulate response to the German plans was the joint column by French Commissioner Breton and Italian Commissioner Gentiloni in several European newspapers, examining the problem of the race for subsidies and calling for preservation of the “principles of solidarity and unity of the Union”. In order to overcome the obstacles created by the differing fiscal headroom within national budgets, we should think of common tools at the European level. One example would be the replication of the SURE mechanism, which was used by the Member States to finance furlough measures in the form of joint borrowing and loans to Member States. Another, more ambitious option would be to replicate the Recovery and Resilience Facility, but at the time several (frugal) countries made a commitment to their electorates that this would be a one-off mechanism. Moreover, many Member States now claim that only 20% of this Facility has been drawn down. Another problem looming in the background is that any new EU fiscal capacity would boost inflation. Personally, I do not believe this line of argument, and Germany’s €200 billion fund proves that the fear is unfounded and that we are only deluding ourselves.

Be that as it may, in the heat of the moment, Germany has conceded in some respects and opened the door to possible joint borrowing, but again only in the form of loans. This would mean loans from the EU to the Member States, which, and here again we must be very honest, are not very popular among the Member States. Firstly, because they can take out loans on the markets themselves, and secondly, because the Commission supervises the use of these funds. This may not be the case for a mechanism similar to SURE, but it is very much the case with the Recovery and Resilience Facility, because through this so-called NextGeneration EU fund the Commission has been given considerable additional power, and in addition to making the release of funds conditional on whether the targets and milestones are met, it has the possibility of making the previously non-binding European Semesters more or less binding for the Member States. The Commission can utilise the leverage provided by the fund in various ways: from not endorsing a plan (the case of Hungary) to making the fund explicitly conditional on the protection of judicial independence (the case of Poland). Or the leverage can be applied by the European Central Bank itself, when it establishes a conditional link for bond purchases within the new Transmission Protection Instrument to the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

In short, Germany is opening the door to joint borrowing and, last week, instead of a price cap on gas, it at least proposed joint gas purchases, which would allow us to use the economic strength of the entire Union in negotiations with suppliers and to improve the price. Something along these lines was expected to emerge from the European Commission’s proposal, and this is what the leaders of EU Member States are discussing in the Council right now. In addition to joint purchases, which will probably be accompanied by mandatory rationalisation, we can expect the introduction of an alternative index to replace the TTF on the Dutch stock exchange and other measures to reduce the volatility of the gas market, including, for example, the so-called circuit breakers. The latter were proposed by Slovenia and have been supported by both the Commission and ESMA, as has also been reported in foreign press. In any case, it is essential to put in place a mechanism to reduce the price of gas, but I would still prefer to see a price cap and long-term reform of the energy market to decouple, among other things, the price of electricity from the price of gas.

A European problem calls for European solutions, and this is not only true for price reductions, but also for state aid rules and the social hardship of European citizens. So far, the Member States have agreed on a price cap of €180 per MW/h for energy producers other than gas-fired power stations, which could generate up to €140 billion in windfall profits, although the windfall profits collected by Member States will vary greatly, depending on current prices and how they produce energy. Other, I would say main, measures can be found within REPowerEU, which is the Commission’s response to the EU’s energy crisis aiming to reduce energy consumption, diversify energy sources and accelerate the use of clean alternative energy sources. The plans’ objectives are well designed, but it should be pointed out that, in terms of the financing, it only means a transfer of existing resources. REPowerEU is an investment package worth €210 billion, but a significant part of it is already taken up by the existing loans under the Recovery and Resilience Facility, i.e. loans that have not yet been drawn down by the Member States. New funding only amounts to €20 billion. Slovenia is expected to receive 116 million of these funds, which is a very favourable result, since, compared to the Commission’s original proposal (which followed the RRF methodology), we managed to increase our share from 0.40% to 0.58%. This can be complemented by unused loans or by transferring Cohesion funds, common agricultural policy resources, and the Just Transition Fund. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that the total of 20 billion for the entire EU comes from the ETS (emission allowances) in one way or another. The Commission has proposed taking them from the Market Stability Reserve, which would negatively affect the climate policy, the Council is proposing to take 75% from the Innovation Fund and 25% from frontloading the Member States’ allowances, while the Parliament’s ENVI Committee has opted for the latter option to cover 100%. In any case, the money is taken from the ETS which supports good programmes such as the Innovation Fund and climate funds in the Member States.

The NextGeneration EU fund was a historic achievement for the EU, transforming the Union’s architecture and allowing huge progress in the area of the common fiscal policy. It proves that politics is the art of the possible, and that what is conceivable is possible. For the first time, the Union as a whole has taken out a common loan of this size on the financial markets, which is still slowly flowing to the Member States in the form of grants or loans. But it turns out that there is only demand for grants, and in my opinion, this component should be increased or else a similar scheme should be developed for the current energy crisis to provide a common European response complementing the existing and future measures that I have described above. It is important to remember, however, that grants, like loans, are also to be returned or repaid by 2056. The Parliament has long been pushing in the direction of the Union’s ‘new own resources’, which could, in theory at least, make this Fund permanent or at least allow its multiple use in one form or another. But progress in the area of ‘new own resources’ is painfully slow. During the negotiations on the RRF and the MFF, the Parliament has managed to set a binding timetable for the ‘new own resources’. Their main sources will again partly be based on revenues from the ETS, from the “digital tax” under the OECD agreement on minimum taxation of multinational enterprises, and the carbon tax on imports.  The legislation for all these measures has been drafted, we just need to find the political will to see it through. Together, this would yield an estimated €17 billion a year. In the long term, however, the ETS will not be able to finance everything that European institutions might come up with. It is also expected partly to finance the Social Climate Fund. I might also point out that the interest on the existing Recovery and Resilience Facility is being paid from the current European Union budget. This year, the interest is expected to amount to just over a billion, and next year it is expected to go up by another 500 million.

This week, ahead of the European Council, the Commission proposed redirecting 40 billion of unspent Cohesion funds from the previous financial perspective into immediate support for households and small and medium-sized enterprises. A similar move was made during the COVID-19 crisis with the CARE programme. Of course, this flexibility is a welcome, perhaps a necessary solution, but it will not be enough. To sum up: I do not think that one can always simply redirect funds within the same framework, as this impoverishes certain other programmes or policies. We need new, innovative solutions, so that in the situation of the current energy crisis, we would have a new fund providing grants for long-term investments into a green future and allowing for short-term, uniform mitigation of the economic and social crisis in the EU. Perhaps it is not even necessary to create a new fund; a solution could be found within the existing mechanism, by, for example, increasing its grant component and reducing its loan component, which could complement the REPowerEU and the reallocation of Cohesion funds.  But unfortunately, at the moment, this is politically a very difficult, if not impossible solution. In reality the EU has a budget to which Member States contribute just over 1% of GNI, while the solutions that the Union is supposed to offer are increasingly complex and demanding. The Union’s budget is already very tight, with the war in Ukraine (and the aforementioned interest payments) having greatly increased the EU’s budgetary needs. Without a new fund, the permanent multiannual budget will either have to be increased or radically restructured. Neither of these options, and least of all additional contributions, would be more easily acceptable to Member States.

– Irena

During its plenary session in Strasbourg, MEP Irena Joveva addressed the European Parliament on the anti-European far right in the EU.

In her speech, she said there had been enough of turning a blind eye, as it is high time to free Europe from kleptocratic autocratic tendencies and to defend our values and the Union. She referred to a wide range of horrendous acts, such as the curtailment of human rights, attacks on free journalism and the LGBTQI+ community, disrespect for the rule of law, corrupt practices and the spread of intolerance – all of which are supported or even encouraged by Europe’s far-right.

Joveva stressed that all of the above points to a decline of democratic values and to the rise of illiberal tendencies. To illustrate this, she used the example of the far right in Slovenia engaging in a fictitious struggle against the long-defunct communism.

She concluded her speech by warning that the lack of action and solutions creates a breeding ground for the far right to continue to thrive and spread. In her closing remark, she said that the spread of the far right means a constant erosion of the foundations of the EU.

You can watch MEP Joveva’s speech here.

Today, MEP Irena Joveva addressed the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on EU–Western Balkans relations in the light of the new enlargement package.

In her address, she reminded the European Union that it has been promising EU membership to the Western Balkan countries for years, but that the enlargement project is not being implemented in practice.

The MEP quoted part of the lyrics from a song by a well-known music group: “prazna obečanja su najbolja reklama” (empty promises are the best publicity) and explained that this is exactly how people from the Western Balkans feel, while in reality they are no less European than EU citizens.

“A promise is a promise and promises are to be kept.”

Joveva stressed that we need to be as strict on the rule of law, media freedom, human rights and other criteria in the Union as we demand from our neighbours. In her view, there are some Member States within the Union that are anything but paragons of virtue.

You can watch the full speech by the MEP by clicking here.