The European Commission announced on Tuesday that it had already EUR 9 billion pre-financing sent to Spain – That is 13% of the 69.5 billion euros in transfers that the government’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is to receive in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The money must be spent on investments and reforms that support green and digital change and also promote social cohesion.
Among these initiatives, Brussels quoted in its press release Promotion of renewable energies, energetic renovation of buildings, improvement of the digital skills of citizens and reduction of youth unemployment through vocational training programs.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said in the statement: “I am convinced that Spain’s ambitious plan will give a decisive boost to the realization of the European Green Deal, it will continue to digitize the economy and it will become more resilient than Spain ever. “
Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Twitter: “We are moving further towards a green, digital, feminist and more coherent country and setting in motion the great transformations our economy needs.”
The funds were released in mid-July when the finance ministers of the European Union finally gave the go-ahead for the recovery plan, after which Spain has up to 140 billion euros until 2026. However, the following transfers are not automatic. Spain has to prove to the EC and its partners every six months that it has implemented the reforms and investments it has committed to in order to gain access to the funds.
The arrival of the money puts an end to months of uncertainty due to delays and complications in the final ratification of the funds and this won’t be the only check sent from Brussels to Madrid. According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Spain will receive another 10 billion euros this year, in December, and 80% of the planned transfers between 2021 and 2023 will also receive structural funds.
Given the urgent need to distribute this money to fuel the recovery, the Spanish government has taken steps to ensure the funds flow quickly. The country’s regions have already spent more than 7.25 billion on improving water treatment services, upgrading vocational training, reducing the digital divide, promoting gender equality and social inclusion policies and improving health technologies.
Spain has so far received more than 17,500 proposals and approved a strategic project for electric vehicles
So far, the Spanish government has issued 25 expressions of interest related to the plan. It has received more than 17,500 proposals and approved a strategic project for electric vehicles in which it plans to mobilize 24 billion euros over three years thanks to public-private partnerships.
Brussels intends to raise up to 80 billion euros in long-term funding this year, “which will be supplemented by short-term EU laws to fund the first planned disbursements to member states under NextGenerationEU,” the latter a reference to the EU’s global recovery package in support of the Member States affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
With the funds, Brussels can finance an investment and reform agenda that will be rolled out across the EU with particular intensity over the next three years in order to strengthen the 27 member states after the crisis caused by the pandemic.
“The way out of this crisis is already very different from that of the previous financial crisis,” said Spanish Economy Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Nadia Calviño in a video message recorded on the arrival of the first tranche of European funds.
Although the payment was expected, it has great symbolic power as this is the first time the bloc has taken on debt to aid its member states. Italy, which received an upfront payment of € 24.9 billion on Friday, and Spain will be the countries that will benefit the most from the stimulus package. The first countries to receive European funding earlier this month were Portugal (€ 2.2 billion), Belgium (€ 770 million) and Luxembourg (€ 12.1 million). A few days later, Greece received 4 billion euros.
With the injection of funds from the recovery plan, government and companies are facing a massive challenge as they must be able to get thousands of projects off the ground in order to avoid some of the funds going unused, as it has in the past with other European funds.
The government plans to use the funds to digitize more than a million small and medium-sized enterprises, to support more than 3,000 companies with their internationalization, to train more than 2.6 million people in digital skills, and to install more than 240,000 interactive digital classrooms , Renovating more than a million households, achieving a fleet of at least 250,000 electric vehicles in 2023 with more than 100,000 charging points, modernizing the judiciary so that at least 30% of legal proceedings take place online, providing high-speed internet for 100% of the population and construction of more than 335 kilometers of rails on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts.
English version of Simon Hunter.