STEP: Stop diverting public funds towards private profit
Today, a majority of the European Parliament voted in favour of the European Commission’s Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (STEP) proposal.
STEP is intended to mitigate the impact of the USA’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the investment fund announced by President Biden, on European businesses. However, a reading of the fine print reveals that this proposal merely redirects existing funds – intended for public authorities for research and infrastructure – to private hands.
A €13 billion top-up will be asked of member states, which is a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed. If the EU were serious about tackling climate change and protecting workers, it would invest new money with strict environmental and social conditions.
Aside from the privatisation of public wealth, the provisions on clean technology do not exclude dirty technologies. There are no guarantees that investments must do no significant harm, setting a low bar and a dangerous precedent. There are insufficient protections for workers and the creation of quality jobs. Finally, the oversight mechanism suggested by the Commission will be made up of industry and corporate lobbyists. The Left fought to include other stakeholders, such as trade unions, NGOs and academics, but this was refused.
Left MEP Cornelia Ernst (Die Linke, Germany) explains: “We reject the STEP proposal. Industrial policy must maximise benefits for society. However, this is not the case. If funds that were previously intended for investments in infrastructure and research are now mobilised for private companies, this is tantamount to the privatisation of public wealth. Additionally, the scope of STEP remains too broad—nuclear and carbon capture and storage should not be eligible for public funding. The proposal lacks clear conditionality for public funding. Lastly, the amount of additional fresh money remains ridiculously small at €13 billion!”
Left MEP Younous Omarjee (La France Insoumise, France) added: “The European Commission used a budgetary rider by inserting, into a regulation with a different objective, provisions concerning cohesion. This is not a good method. I also regret that in the absence of new money, it is still the cohesion policy which is being used in the worst possible way by giving a blank cheque to multinationals with the structural funds. European Regional Development Funds are made for SMEs and SMEs only. But it is true that as soon as an opportunity presents itself to open the floodgates for multinationals, the Commission rushes in. And it remains risky that tinkering around the edges will not achieve the set objectives of reindustrialisation while respecting the principles of cohesion.”