The Franco-German initiative, published just days before the commission is due to propose its own coronavirus response, calls for a €500bn “recovery fund”, raised by issuing joint EU debt, that would support the sectors and regions most affected by the crisis.
The fund would seek to increase investments in “the digital and green transitions” and strengthen research and innovation, according to a declaration signed by French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel.
It also describes the European Green Deal, presented with much fanfare by the European Commission last year, as “the EU’s new growth strategy and a blueprint for a prosperous and resilient economy”, supporting plans to increase the bloc’s 2030 emissions reduction target, introduce a carbon border adjustment mechanism and review state aid rules to support climate policy.
The French and German governments also back a minimum carbon price for the EU emissions trading system, a sector-by-sector “green recovery roadmap” that incorporates climate and environmental targets “where appropriate”, and widespread digitalisation of the EU economy.
Describing the proposal as a “milestone”, French president Emmanuel Macron told reporters on Monday that the green deal “cannot be called into question” in Europe’s response to the crisis. Instead it “must be sped up”, he stressed, through commitments to climate action, the environment and biodiversity.
However, the proposal falls well short of the European Parliament’s position. Last week, MEPs overwhelmingly endorsed a recovery package of at least €2trn that would prioritise investment in the green deal, digitalisation and “European sovereignty in strategic sectors”.
While describing the Franco-German statement as a “good first step”, Green MEP Sven Giegold speculated that Berlin had brought down its overall level of ambition on climate change. “A concrete figure for increasing the EU’s 2030 climate target is missing,” he observed.
Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the announcement “goes in the direction” of the proposal being drawn up by her officials, who “will also take into account the views of all member states and the European Parliament”.
WWF’s European policy office said the proposal “sends a message of European solidarity”, but urged EU leaders to go further by committing to “50% recovery spending on climate and environment”.