At the end of July, EU leaders struck a deal on a huge coronavirus recovery package after days of bitter talks. The €750billion (£668billion) coronavirus fund, spearheaded by France and Germany, will be used as loans and grants to the countries hit hardest by the virus. The remaining money represents the EU budget for the next seven years.
The talks began with a divide emerging between the hardest hit nations and those intent on a more “frugal” package of measures.
Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Austria all pushed back on an initial package of grants worth €500bn (£450billon), reportedly causing French President Emmanuel Macron to bang his fists in anger.
But despite coming to an agreement, the package is still causing havoc in member states.
Italy’s government crisis was triggered last month when former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Italia Viva party withdrew its support from the coalition amid a row over how to spend the €200billion (£172bn)-plus that Italy is poised to receive from the recovery fund.
Not everyone in France is happy, either.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, French MEP Philippe Olivier, who also serves as special adviser to National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, furiously lashed out against the bloc’s relief package.
He said: “There are many problems with it.
“First of all, it is a problem of competence.
“Many claim the EU was not in a legal position to contract such loans.
“So it might not even be legal.
“And you can see very clearly how Brussels uses every crisis to advance forward towards a federalisation of Europe.
“Having a mutualised debt creating a common financial debt creates a financial state.”
Mr Philippe added: “France will be paying €80billion (£69bn) and we will get €40billion (£34bn) back.
“As Margaret Thatcher used to say: ‘I want my money back!'”
All EU countries contribute to the EU budget, and in return benefit from EU spending in their countries.
This is because the bulk of the EU budget is spent on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which supports farmers’ incomes, countries with a large agricultural sector, generally get more back than they put in.
Large countries like Germany are net contributors to the EU budget.
JUST IN: Le Pen’s adviser lashes out at Brexit deal: ‘Germany dominates EU!’
Britain used to be one but in 1984, former Prime Minister Ms Thatcher negotiated a reduction of two-thirds in the UK’s net contribution, to be paid by other EU members, on the grounds that the agricultural subsidies favour small farmers.
She reportedly banged her hands on the table and told her European colleagues: “I want my money back!”
There are millions of smallholders in France, who designed the system, and very few in Britain and even fewer in Scotland.
Mr Philippe added: “When you look at the whole picture, basically we don’t get our money’s worth.
“And also in regards to the use of funds, we don’t understand why we should lose our sovereignty on deciding what to do with these funds and transferring them to Europe.”
German MEP Gunnar Beck also questioned in another interview with Express.co.uk the legality of the funds.
Mr Beck explained: “The Recovery Fund is so expensive and unlawful.
“It is clearly against the wording of the articles 310 and 311 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU.
“They clearly state that the EU is not allowed to take debt on the financial market
“It is a breach of treaty.
“It is a breach of the EU constitution.”
Elon Musk blamed Brexit for Tesla plant snub but he may not be right [INSIGHT]
London urged to turn into ‘Singapore’ as EU ‘in breach of WTO’ [REVEALED]
Macron torn apart by French MEP after UK clinches vaccine [EXCLUSIVE]
he Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union is one of two treaties forming the constitutional basis of the European Union, the other being the Treaty on European Union.
Article 310 reads: “With a view to maintaining budgetary discipline, the Union shall not adopt any act which is likely to have appreciable implications for the budget without providing an assurance that the expenditure arising from such an act is capable of being financed within the limit of the Union’s own resources and in compliance with the multiannual financial framework referred to in Article 312.”
Caroline Heber, senior research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance, echoed the MEPs’ claims in a recent entry for a blog from the University of Oxford.
She wrote: “According to the principle of conferral, which underpins the EU, the EU acts only within the limits of the competences conferred upon it by the member states in the Treaties to attain the objectives.
“Consequently, any action by the EU must be based on a sufficient authorisation to act granted within the EU Treaties.
“This also applies to the issuing of bonds on the financial markets by the Commission on behalf of the EU.
“The EU Treaties do not confer a general power to borrow on the EU.”
At times, the lack of a general power to borrow has not prevented the EU from issuing bonds on the financial markets.
The EU has usually used the flexibility clause to overcome its lack of a fundamental borrowing competence.
However, Ms Heber noted, the flexibility clause cannot provide a sufficient legal ground for the issuing of bonds for the recovery fund.
She added: “Unlike past examples, the funds are not limited to passing on the benefits of the EU’s credit rating to the member states.
“The borrowed funds are intended to finance transfers via economic policy measures and, although they may be covered by EU policy areas, there can be no doubt that this massive redistribution has an impact on the overall structure of the EU. Such a momentous borrowing and use of funds via the recovery fund cannot be based on Article 352 TFEU.
“As a result, the EU does not have sufficient competence to issue €750billion (£668billion) bonds to finance the recovery fund.”