• Brussels, worried about a possible controversy over the Spanish addendum

In 2022, Spain only effectively spent 5,680 million euros of European Next Generation funds, slightly more than double the 2,743 million in 2021. The figure, confirmed to Brussels and Eurostat as EL MUNDO has been able to verify, and that the European Commission is debating precisely these weeks within the framework of its economic and financial committees, is very low and especially sensitive in the country that is at the forefront of the recovery mechanism designed with pooled money to face the expenses of the pandemic.

In those two years, Spain received 31,000 million euros, so the 8,423 million spent and notified are only 27.17%. There is much more allocated, committed, planned, but not actually used, according to the fiscal notification sent to the institutions. In the design of the plan to reactivate continental economies, Spain was awarded about 140,000 million euros, of which approximately half, 69,500, were in direct transfers, which do not count for debt or public deficit. But subsequently, after recalculating the percentages of all member states based on the real impact of the recession on GDP in 2020 and 2021, our country was awarded another 7,700 million euros.

The European plan provides for transfers and credits on advantageous terms. Some like Italy, the biggest beneficiary, chose to ask for everything at once, and drafted their national recovery plans to receive and administer about 200,000 million, an amount difficult to assume and that is now taking its toll.

Both Brussels and Madrid knew that the almost 70,000 million Spanish were going to be very complicated to execute. Our country has a very long tradition with European funds, both regional and cohesion. And experience shows that they are spent, but in general very slowly, because the bureaucratic process and management between the central government, autonomous communities, municipalities and companies is clearly improvable. The problem with the Next Generation is that they do not give so much leeway, so there is a hurry. And that they are an additional workload, with a depleted administration, with insufficient personnel and outdated methods of work does not help.

In the recommendations published on May 24 after making an in-depth analysis of the Spanish Stability Plan and the National Reform Program for the coming years, the European Commission, among the first priorities, included that of "ensuring the effective absorption of RR grants and other EU funds, in particular to promote the ecological and digital transitions". In their document, the institutions stressed that "to date, the implementation of Spain's Recovery and Resilience Plan has progressed well. Spain has submitted three payment requests, corresponding to 121 milestones and objectives of the plan and which resulted in a total disbursement of 28,000 (does not include pre-financing)". But Brussels also recalled that although our country was among the most advanced members in the implementation of the plan, "now plans to review it to more than double its volume."

Therefore, it said, the "review should be accompanied by sufficient administrative capacity to ensure the effective and efficient absorption of recovery and resilience funds and other available EU and national funds (...) The systematic and effective involvement of regional and local governments, social partners and other relevant stakeholders remains important for the successful implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Plan, as well as other economic and employment policies that go beyond what it covers, in order to ensure broad ownership of the policy agenda as a whole." the document insisted.

Possible change of government

The Government, at the request of Nadia Calviño, drafted a plan with 112 investments and 102 reforms, allocating 40% of everything that will be received to support climate objectives and 28% to promote the digital transition, as requested by the regulations. But now, these days precisely, finalizes an addendum to that National Recovery Plan to opt for some 94,300 million more, the bulk (84,000) in loans and about 10,000 between those additional funds for the fall of the economy and those assigned to also alleviate the damages of the energy crisis.

That request carries with it new milestones, reforms and investments. Vice President Calviño said on Wednesday in Barcelona that she will send the request to Brussels next week, something that the Popular Party sees with bad eyes, because they believe that having plenty of time to do so, until August 31, it is not appropriate for someone who may be an outgoing government to do so.

The use of Community money is the subject of much controversy because of its opacity and persistent lack of transparency. The total amount executed, where it has been spent, who the beneficiaries are is unclear, which has caused the discomfort of the otherwise politicized control commission of the European Parliament, which led a mission to Spain this spring.

Spain is the most advanced country, one of the first to present the plan and all the applications, since it entrusted a large part of the recovery to investment through this instrument, not having much fiscal muscle of its own. As soon as his plan was approved, he received 9,000 million euros in a payment known as pre-financing, and that was basically something automatic, to compensate for the expenses already made during the confinements. Then, the first official disbursement, paid in January 2022, amounted to 10,000 million more. And in June of that year, another 12,000 from the second payment, for a total of 31,000. In addition, just a few weeks ago, on March 31, the 6,000 million of the third arrived, which already brings the total to 37,000 million. Well above and ahead of the rest of the EU, including Italy, which still has its third payment stuck.

According to Brussels, in its assessment, the Spanish plan "will foster economic growth and create jobs", raising the gross domestic product "between 1.8% and 2.5% by 2024. This boost to the economy will bring up to 250,000 citizens to jobs. Spain will benefit significantly from the recovery and resilience plans of other Member States, for example through exports to these same States. These indirect effects represent 0.4 percentage points of gross domestic product in 2024," the analysis said. 0.4% is approximately what those 8,423 million spent until the end of 2022 represent in our GDP.

  • Nadia Calviño

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