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6 July 2020

The last stand

On 17-18 July, Member States will gather for the Special European Council to define the post-COVID-19 recovery plan and the new long-term EU budget. This is the critical opportunity to align these economic horizons to the Union’s sustainability goals and make them sustainability-proof.

Last 27 May 2020, the European Commission (EC) released its new proposals for the EU’s long-term budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), and a ‘Next Generation EU’ recovery plan — aimed to address the COVID-19 crisis. The next step for definitions is right around the corner: on 17-18 July, the 27 EU Member States will convene at the Special European Council to discuss more in-depth the recovery plan, as well as the new long-term EU budget.

Representing civil society organisations from Central and Eastern Europe, CEEweb for Biodiversity now calls on Member States to make use of this unique context and expediate a transformative green recovery. Moreover, we call on them to properly channel the Commission’s pitch into the bold proposal that Europe needs to confront the current and upcoming challenging times.

Furthermore, while we welcome the Commission’s proposed framework for the post-2020 EU budget — aimed at strengthening the European Green Deal, resilience, and a just transition — CEEweb for Biodiversity also stresses that the current references to sustainability and resilience are still not enough to ensure that the EU budget becomes the necessary driver for sustainability transformation.

All internal and external EU spending must ensure coherence by aligning all objectives, conditionalities and monitoring of funds to the EU’s ambitious sustainability goals:

  1. The EU budget must serve the public good and deliver results in all four dimensions of sustainability — environmental, social, economic, and governance.
  2. The EU budget should work for the people and with the people, with greater transparency, respectful of diversity, and with meaningful participation of the citizens.
  3. EU funding should be linked to strict conditionality to ensure that it supports sustainability objectives and the achievement of the European Green Deal; no EU spending should undermine agreed upon goals.
  4. Funds should contribute to creating resilient economies and societies, increase well-being, and contribute to decreasing inequality and social exclusion at all scales.
  5. EU funding, especially the Just Transition Fund, should support systemic change through full consistency with efforts delivering on the EU’s climate neutrality goal.
  6. The EU budget should strengthen common European values, enhance democracy, and protect civil space in the Members States — through adequate funding for civil society organizations, thus upholding and creating an enabling environment for democratic processes to adequately take place in the upcoming challenging times.
  7. The EU budget should contribute to decreasing total environmental pressures and not support environmentally harmful activities. Thus, the EU Budget should be fully in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change by excluding all support for fossil fuels and increasing the level of climate mainstreaming of the next MFF to 50%.
  8. The EU budget should contribute to improving the state of environment, as well as to maintaining and restoring ecosystem services — the very foundation of our society and economy. It should clearly ringfence money for biodiversity and restoring ecosystem services and should also improve biodiversity-integration into relevant funds, such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and regional funds.

This is the decisive moment when the EU can demonstrate its commitment to coherently mainstream sustainability principles, goals, and objectives into funding decisions for the next decade. We therefore call on the European Council to show their political commitment to sustainability and set forth a truly catalytic budget.