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Pirates: The “Next Generation EU” plan is going in the right direction, could be better in certain details

Brussels, 27/5/2020 – The European Commission unveiled the Next Generation EU Plan today in order to get things back in order as quickly as possible.

Marcel Kolaja, head of the Pirate delegation and Vice-President of the European Parliament, comments:

“Overall, the Next Generation EU Plan is going in the right direction and pays a lot of attention to digitization as a way to transform European economies, which we perceive very positively. The Commission’s Next Generation EU plan rightly acknowledged the need to support the development of digital skills. On the other hand, the proposal should also focus on other fundamentals, such as adequate Internet connectivity in rural areas. We also need to make sure that not only investment in new technologies is supported, but that we incentivize them for those technologies specifically that respect European values as privacy and freedom of expression on-line. Now, everything will depend on the implementation and also on the position of the Council and its will to be construcitve and perceive Europe as a whole, which is in the best interests of all Member States now.”

Patrick Breyer MEP, LIBE committee member, comments on privacy:                                      

“Apart from economic recovery, we need a fundamental rights recovery plan. Governments have used the crisis to monitor and restrict our movements, introduce drone policing or even to rule by decree. I want the Commission to be specific and uncompromising on recovering our fundamental rights.”

Mikuláš Peksa MEP, ECON, ITRE, and CONT committees member, comments on economic aspects:

“With mutual debt, consisting of €750 billion guaranteed by the EU, the Commission is going boldly into the future and bringing the Union closer together. While I supported the request of the whole European Parliament for a higher recovery budget, I hope that this compromise proposal will be agreeable to countries around Europe. The direction in which the funds will flow is also reasonable – we desperately need to transition towards modern, digital, and more sustainable future as fast as possible. There is no vaccine for climate, only deep and rational change can help us solve this challenge. Strengthening the Just Transition Fund with an additional €32.5 billion, four times the initial amount, is, therefore, a good proposal. I also welcome the initiative for a Regulation on the protection of the EU budget against rule of law deficiencies, especially since the abuses of emergency measures we saw in Central and Eastern Europe. At the same time, I believe more budgetary control mechanisms should be put in place to prevent conflicts of interest, as well as misuse and fraud of EU emergency funds. We cannot waste this opportunity, SMEs and citizens of Europe will need these resources much more than corporations and systemic public funds abusers like Orbán and Babiš. Therefore, I am grateful for the additional funds to be allocated for the new renovation wave, as that is exactly the type of investment that will help citizens and will pay back in less than ten years.”

Markéta Gregorová MEP, INTA, AFET, SEDE, and AFCO committees member, comments on the international relations:

“The pandemic is a global challenge that needs a global response. Europe must provide the answers and demonstrate solidarity with its partners in needs. The Commission does understand that we cannot exclude international financial institutions, The United Nations and The World Health Organisation and more from the solution. The cooperation with the multilateral institution is key and essential in securing global health.

What pandemic taught us was that there is an urgent need to safeguard part of the supply chains of medical equipment during pandemic crises. I positively see that the Commission proposes funding in partner countries to reinforce health care systems, including preparedness, and to build manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 related vaccinations, treatments and diagnostics as the proposal target the most vulnerable, which is something I can support. However, the proposal does not comment on the need for protection of the workers’ human rights and working conditions in such manufacturing supply chains.

We need to ensure that the workers in jobs linked to the global economy are not forced to work part-time for less income or lose their jobs, or in insufficient conditions due to global supply chain disruption by COVID-19. We are unfortunately not on the same boat, however on different types of boats in a very angry ocean. There is a need to mitigate the impact on already struggling families not just in Europe but in the rest of the world and to ensure the manufacturing standards of medical equipment are according to all ILO conventions by adequate safeguards to protect workers’ human rights and living standards. The Commission proposes funding in partner countries to reinforce health care systems, including manufacturing of the medical products. However, I don’t see the Commission pointing out the current human rights issues and calling on promoting and safeguarding Human Rights in the global supply chains.“

Marcel Kolaja MEP, Vice-President of the European Parliament, comments on digitization:

“I welcome that the package perceives technology as tool at the service of environmentally friendly technology. The twin transformation, digital and green, going hand in hand, are the key element in rebuilding European economy and strengthen competitiveness. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, many small businesses that were previously only considering on-line selling, got the final incentive to digitize their services. This is an opportunity for them to further expand their outreach.“

The Commission’s plan to support re-skilling and strengthening of digital skillsis welcome. It will boost the development of SMEs and help citizens fully benefit from the digital economy. This is crucial for Europe, given that according to statistics,only 56% of Europeans have sufficient digital skills to operate in the digitized Europe.

However, the recovery plan focuses mainly on investment in better connectivity such as 5G, without solving the issue of lack of adequate Internet connectivity in the first place. In Czechia for instance, the divide between urban and rural areas persists, as only 59% of rural households are covered by fast broadband networks.

Investment in new technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud infrastructure, or supercomputers should be conditioned upon the respect of fundamental rights, including the right to protection of personal data and  freedom of expression and information. That is where Europe has a clear competitive advantage and where we can make a difference.”

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