By Lisa Zengarini
The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) welcomes the EU’s “Recovery Package”, reminding that solidarity “is at the heart of the European Union”.
The package is the largest stimulus recovery instrument ever funded by the EU to help its members address the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst undertaking green and digital transitions. It consists of a new long-term EU budget for the period 2021-2027 (€1100 billion), which was adopted by the European Council on 17 December 2020, and the extraordinary temporary instrument ‘Next Generation EU’ (€750 billion). To access the funds Member States will have to submit their national Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRPs) by April 30, including projects, reforms and investments in six policy areas: ecological transition; digital transformation; smart, sustainable and inclusive employment and growth; social and territorial cohesion; health and resilience; policies for the next generation, including education and skills.
A new sign of solidarity in the European Union
In a 9-page statement entitled “One year after: What place for social, ecological and contributive justice in the EU recovery package?”, the Social Affairs Commission of the COMECE, welcomes the integration of new own EU resources “to ensure that everyone contributes in a fair way to the recovery, while caring for our common home and people who live in it”. The Commission says the plan is a “new sign of solidarity in the European Union, much needed to help the people most impacted by the crisis, and to tackle the ongoing global ecological crisis”, remarking that “against individualistic trends, the pandemic has revealed that – more than ever – we need solidarity among nations if we are to put human dignity back at the centre”.
Reconciling digital progress with the care of our common home
The reflection paper goes on to analyse some of the concrete achievements of the European Union financed through the EU budget towards social, ecological and contributive justice, making some proposals for more solidarity in the recovery process. Regarding ecological recovery, European bishops stress the need “to reconcile digital progress with the care of our common home” and of structural reforms and investments that have long-lasting environmental and socio-economic effects. They also emphasize the EU’s ethical duty to repay their “ecological debt” to the least developed countries by helping.
The need for a fairer taxation system
Concerning social justice, the COMECE notes, amongst other things, that though poor and deprived families will indirectly receive support under “Next Generation EU” there is no “no specific mention on families, who are the vital cell of our society”. Moreover, the Commission expresses its support for a fairer taxation system in which large companies contribute in a fair way to the recovery, while stressing “the importance of international cooperation to find a global solution” on this issue.
The call for a rapid ratification of the Recovery Package
Finally European Bishops encourage all Member States to fulfil their commitment of July 2020 by ratifying the Own Resources Decision in their national Parliament, so that the recovery fund is operational by the Summer and reiterate their hope “that from this crisis we can come out stronger, wiser, more united, exercising more solidarity, caring more for our common home, being a continent that pushes the whole world forward towards greater fraternity”.