Senior French MEP goes on hunger strike to protest EU budget deal

A senior French MEP has gone on hunger strike to demand the EU introduce a tax on financial markets and to protest against budget plans that downgraded programs on health, research and climate change.

“My goal is not to die but to avoid millions of deaths,” Pierre Larrouturou told POLITICO. “If there’s no financing, there is no agreement.” 

In July, European leaders agreed on a historic €1.82 trillion budget and coronavirus recovery package and laid out a path to add new bloc-wide sources of revenue to finance the EU budget, including a levy based on non-recycled plastic. But the European Parliament is unhappy with several aspects of the deal, notably the lack of a strong mechanism to punish rule of law breaches by national capitals and cuts to some programs.

MEPs also want a definitive timetable for the introduction of a financial transaction tax — something the European Commission first proposed in 2011. Larrouturou said the tax, which advocates say would ensure that the financial sector contributes more fairly to tax revenues, would bring in €50 billion a year.

The French MEP, part of the socialist group in the Parliament, said he had his sights set on a meeting of EU finance ministers in December where he wants agreement to establish a financial transaction tax in 2024.  

“There is something obscene in saying that there is no money for health, hospitals and climate when financial markets have never been at such a high level,” said Larrouturou, who as the rapporteur for the EU’s 2021 annual budget is responsible for shepherding key legislation through Parliament.

He blamed the Council — as well as his own country, France — for blocking a proposal that has been on the table for years and would help economies to repay their debt. EU capitals have consistently resisted the introduction of such EU-wide revenue raising mechanisms to keep direct control over taxation.

The MEP also warned that a financial transaction tax would help countries avoid a tough recession in 2024 because “the landing will be brutal.” 

“Those countries who say ‘no’ to the [financial transaction tax] — it means they prefer to help traders and tax voters,” he added. 

The Parliament must give its consent to the EU’s multi-year budget running from 2021 to 2027, while the Council will also need to sign off on the final budget numbers.

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