Ursula von der Leyen has signed the first plans by EU member states to spend the 800 billion euro (£ 687 billion) Covid recovery fund from Brussels, while seeking to reverse the reputational damage inflicted on the bloc. for the pandemic during a visit to Portugal and Spain.
Speaking in Lisbon, the president of the European Commission said that she believed that the EU fund for the next generation, which has been weighed to prioritize digital and green projects, would be a “European success”.
The commission raised a first tranche of € 20 billion from the fund by selling 10-year bonds on Tuesday. The massive joint issuance of debt, the largest in the union’s history, is seen in Brussels as a milestone in the union’s history.
It is also seen as an opportunity to convince national populations of the merits of the EU. A report, published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) last week, he suggested a poor early response to the health crisis and the stuttering of the EU vaccine launch had dealt a blow to confidence in the union’s capabilities. The majority in France (62%), Italy (57%), Germany (55%), Spain (52%) and Austria (51%) described the EU project as “broken”.
The first national program to receive what Von der Leyen described as the commission’s “green light” was Portugal and its € 16.6 billion recovery and resilience plan, comprised of € 14 billion in grants and € 2.6 billion in grants. euros in loans.
“The plan was designed in Portugal,” said Von der Leyen together with the country’s prime minister, António Costa. “The reforms and investments contained in this plan will allow Portugal to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis stronger, more resistant and better prepared for the future. In short, it will help build a better future for the Portuguese. We will support Portugal every step of the way. Your success will be our success. A European success “.
Von der Leyen traveled to Spain later that day to meet with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. He also plans to visit Greece, Denmark and Luxembourg later this week to support his plans.
Spain, the member state whose economy was most affected by the pandemic with a contraction of 10.8% in 2020, is the second country to receive support for its spending strategy. It will receive € 70 billion in grants and € 70 billion in loans over the next five years. Commission approval should be followed by support from member states later this year.
Sánchez has suggested that the recovery plan could transform Spain’s economy in a way similar to that experienced with entry to the European Community in 1986.
In a joint press conference with Von der Leyen, he announced that he would meet with the heads of Spain’s regional governments before the summer to discuss the plan and ensure that they, and the country’s thousands of mayors, had a voice.
“Our goal is to make sure that the recovery is fast and fair, so that no region or generation is left behind, and that we look to the future,” said Sánchez. “This is a national plan; a plan that involves us all. We have a tremendous opportunity to modernize our country for generations to come. “
Under the scheme, national plans must allocate at least 37% of spending on projects that are in line with the EU 2050 target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions and 20% on digitization.
Green MEPs have already raised concerns that a number of spending priorities in the plans presented to the committee are only superficially in line with declared priorities, raising concerns about “greenwashing”.
Sven Giegold MEP, the Greens’ financial and economic policy spokesperson, said: “It is now a question of implementation whether the potential of the fund for the green transformation of the European economy is fully exploited.
“In the case of Portugal, for a significant part of the measures it is not yet foreseeable whether they will have a positive or negative climate impact.
“Important details on the implementation of some of the planned measures are still missing. Whether the construction of new houses contributes to the achievement of European climate objectives will depend decisively on the construction materials used and the energy efficiency of the planned buildings ”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism