Lisbon (AFP)

The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen is expected Wednesday in Lisbon and then in Madrid to give the green light from Brussels to the first national recovery plans, financed by an unprecedented joint loan in order to mitigate the economic damage of the pandemic.

"This is a historic achievement," von der Leyen said last week announcing in the European Parliament that the Commission will start approving Member States' plans to implement the 750 billion dollar stimulus package. hard-negotiated euros until its adoption in July 2020.

The choice to start with the two Iberian countries is symbolic.

Portugal has indeed made the rapid adoption of these national plans one of the main priorities of its rotating presidency of the European Council, which will have to validate them on the recommendation of the Commission.

As a good student, the government of socialist Antonio Costa wanted to set an example by being the first EU country to submit its own plan, in April.

Spain is for its part the second beneficiary of these European funds behind Italy.

Madrid is to receive some 140 billion euros in total, including 70 billion euros in direct subsidies and the same in the form of loans.

- "Extraordinary generosity" -

"Two countries in southern Europe, which in the past have not felt accompanied, have this time benefited from extraordinary support and generosity from their partners in the North", commented to AFP Toni Roldan, director of the EsadeEcPol economic policy research center in Madrid.

Spain was one of the countries most affected by the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in spring 2020, while Portugal was hit hard at the start of the year.

Very dependent on tourism, their economies have suffered enormously.

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Since the debt crisis of 2011, Lisbon and Madrid have often found themselves on the front line in the face of attacks from so-called "frugal" countries who were reluctant to finance the spending of southern European countries, according to them less virtuous in management. of their public finances.

While a certain vagueness persists on the conditions attached to these stimulus plans, Spain and Portugal could have shown "greater reformist ambition" to use this money, especially in the education sector, says Toni Roldan.

"I understand that it is difficult for the Commission, in this very complicated context, with the rise of populism, all the post-pandemic suffering, to demand very deep reforms, but at the same time it is the best time", he considered.

- Ecological transition -

In Lisbon, Mrs von der Leyen will meet at the end of the morning with Prime Minister Antonio Costa - whose country is to receive 16 billion euros in non-returnable funds - in a scientific exhibition center.

In Madrid, the German official will be received in the afternoon by the head of government Pedro Sanchez, another socialist, at the headquarters of the Spanish Electricity Network, while the largest share of the investments of the Spanish plan will be dedicated to the ecological transition.

The President of the Commission will visit Greece and Denmark on Thursday, then Luxembourg the next day, continuing a journey which should lead her to visit most of the Member States.

Since the end of April, 23 national investment and reform plans have been submitted for approval to Brussels, which has two months to decide from the date of submission of the file, before a final opinion that the European Council, representing member states, must give within one month.

On Tuesday, another milestone was taken, with a first debt issue that raised a quarter of the roughly € 80 billion in long-term bonds that the Commission plans to issue by the end of the year. year to fund national plans.

© 2021 AFP