Brussels to disburse the first European funds in the coming weeks

The finance ministers of the EU-27 have approved the first batch of reform and investment plans to obtain aid from the reconstruction fund for the COVID pandemic
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AFP/YANN SCHREIBER  -   People wearing face masks walk in front of a large Euro poster

The European Commission (EC) expects to deliver in the "coming weeks" the first recovery funds to Spain and the other eleven countries whose plans received the final approval of the European Union Member States on Monday, the Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Paolo Gentiloni, explained on Tuesday.

The ministers of Economy and Finance of the EU-27 have approved at a meeting in Brussels the first batch of reform and investment plans to obtain aid from the reconstruction fund for the CVID pandemic, which in the case of Spain clears the way for obtaining 69,500 million euros between now and 2026. The first payment to Spain will correspond to an advance of 9 billion euros.

"This is the real start of the Next Generation recovery plan. In the coming weeks the advance payments will be made to these twelve countries", Gentiloni said on his arrival at the meeting.

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PHOTO/EUROPEAN UNION - European Council meeting

The final approval of these plans, he stressed, "comes just as the recovery is underway" and "will boost confidence in markets and in countries".

"We are all committed to making this work and the formal decision is an essential part, but what will happen in the coming weeks, months and years will be the decisive part of this extraordinary and unprecedented programme," he warned.

Slovenian Finance Minister Andrej Sircelj, whose country is chairing this semester's EU Council, also stressed that this is a "historic" meeting and that "the implementation of these plans will be very important".

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PHOTO/EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT - EU to disburse first recovery funds in the coming weeks

The key to the fund's success will be its subsequent implementation, since disbursements will depend on the countries meeting the targets in the agreed timetable, which in Spain's case is ambitious.

In fact, in the technical discussions between the Member States on the plans, the partners asked Spain about its decision to concentrate most of the investments and reforms, including labour and pension reforms, in the first three years of the plan, according to sources in the Ministry of Economy.

The government argues that it was necessary to deploy the impact of the plan as soon as possible in order to tackle the crisis and assures that the EU partners fully understand this approach and praise its ambition. 

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Once the clarifications have been resolved during the technical meetings, the plans are expected to be approved by the ministers without discussion and, in the case of Spain, without changes. In fact, the vice-president and minister for economic affairs, Nadia Calviño, is not attending the meeting in order to be present at the new government's first council of ministers.

For his part, the Portuguese Finance Minister, Joao Leao, whose country was the first to receive the Commission's approval, stressed that the adoption of these twelve plans comes "at the right time", since "after a year of emergency measures" it is necessary "for these plans to go to the economy to help activate the recovery".

In addition to the Spanish plan, the plans of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal and Slovakia haven been approved.