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The EU’s new multiannual budget must reflect its new ambitions. Europe must assert itself as a geopolitical entity, as a democratic power with not only an economic dimension but social and cultural as well, writes MEP Maria João Rodrigues.

The European Union must change its nature and adopt a budget that meets new ambitions. In the face of a multi-polarised world, it is clear that the European project can no longer be limited to a single market or a monetary zone.

Europe must assert itself as a geopolitical entity, as a democratic power with not only an economic dimension but also social and cultural.

With Russia testing our sovereignty capacities, with the US in an isolationist drift, with China betting on the eternal prolongation of a monolithic power, Europe must remain a central reference for international cooperation based on a multilateral system.

This translates into trade agreements currently under negotiation and a more coordinated defence capacity, but it also requires a more consistent external action on several fronts: development, financial, energy, social and cultural cooperation, but also Internet governance, as recent revelations about Facebook and privacy protection show.

Protecting the European way of life will increasingly depend on the construction of a European identity and sovereignty, able to complement national identities and sovereignties.

Managing migration must be a new vector of the European future. Cooperating with the countries of origin for their development, organizing legal channels of immigration, coordinating the European borders, organizing the integration of immigrants as a factor of rebalancing and opening up an ever-ageing continent.

But how can Europe lead this great operation, yet avoid the surge of poles of tension in various regions, and the emergence of xenophobic and nationalist forces who are calling for a return to national borders as the basic condition for the protection of European citizens?

The only effective way to combat this nationalist illusion is to provide Europe with powerful means to strengthen its social and regional cohesion. Europe needs an ambitious investment and employment strategy to transform itself into a low-carbon circular economy, and take advantage of the new phase of the digital revolution that will multiply smart and connected products and services.

However, this strategy must be within the reach of all regions and citizens and leverage an update of the social patterns to work and live in this new economy. For example, according to the recently approved European Social Pillar, all those who work today for digital platforms – and they will be increasingly more! – should be able to count on a full employment contract and full access to the social protection system.

Without this, the so-called European welfare states are no longer sustainable.

The new Multiannual Financial Framework currently under discussion should contain credible answers to these ambitions.

New priorities – defence and immigration – need to be met, but this must not be done at the expense of the means for the European Union to take care of its internal cohesion – including in the euro area, where the development of a specific budgetary capacity is essential if we are to reverse the systemic divergences within it.

But how to obtain the financial means to do so? National contributions could rise to 1.3% of European GDP, especially if the member states agree to obtain new fiscal resources, not from citizens, but from those who have the capacity to pay them, such as polluting companies or digital sector multinationals.

This was the position adopted by the European Parliament; let us now see what the Council will do!