The European Parliament today gave the green light to the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), an instrument endowed with €672.5 billion in loans and grants created to support Member States mitigate the economic and social impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
After the historic agreement reached by the European Council on July 21, the European institutions have set to work to prepare the different instruments that make up the Next Generation EU Recovery plan for Europe. The most important is the RRF, which has come after complicated negotiations between the three EU institutions. Socialist MEP Eider Gardiazabal has been Parliament's negotiator.
Alícia Homs, Gardiazábal's colleague in Brussels and MEP for the Balearic Islands, explains that “the negotiations have not been easy, but an agreement has finally been reached that will make a total of €360 billion in loans and €312.5 billion in grants available to the EU countries.”
“The agreement represents a before and after for the European project”, Homs remarked, “not only because of the amount of funds but also because of the ways in which it has been configured, since it has been achieved through partial debt mutualisation among all Member States, a formula never used before.” Homs considers this to be "a very important step for European integration" and that "Europe has realized the mistakes it made in the 2008 crisis, applying austerity, and this time Europe has not failed and has given a solidary and ambitious response.”
“It has been achieved that, as requested by the President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, part of the funds of this Recovery Plan are non-refundable subsidies. This is the most important investment program in the coming years, we have to take advantage of it”, assured the MEP of the PSIB-PSOE Alícia Homs.
The Balearic Islands have been the region most affected by the pandemic in Spain and one of the most affected in the EU. “Europe reacts”, considers Homs, “and large investments will arrive in the Balearic Islands that, in the short term, will help us to alleviate the social impact that this crisis is causing; but also, in the medium term, the investments will serve to make our Autonomous Community more resilient in the face of future crises. For this reason, the funds will have to be used to achieve an ecological transition, to adapt to digitization or to strengthen and modernize public services.”
The mechanism has been approved by consensus by the majority of political groups in the European Parliament. Even so, Alicia Homs recalls that the Spanish PP has tried to hinder the EU Recovery Plan on several occasions: “first, from Brussels, when they tried to boycott the July agreement by positioning themselves in favor of governments less inclined to help the most affected countries instead of defending the interests of Spain; and, later, in Congress, when they voted against the Decree Law for the governance of European funds.”
The Recovery and Resilience Facility is the most important investment program of NextGenerationEU. All Member States are eligible for these funds. To do this, countries must present national recovery and resilience plans focused on the EU's political priorities, such as the just climate transition, social cohesion or digital transformation; as well as projects aimed at improving the institutional response to the crisis (modernization of public administrations or policies with funds to support the Youth and Child Guarantee).
All projects focused on mitigating the social and economic effects of the crisis launched on or after 1 February 2020 will be eligible.