Airbus criticizes the government’s lack of coordination to collect European funds | Economy

The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, and that of Airbus, Guillaume Faury, in a meeting in La Moncloa, in February.
The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, and that of Airbus, Guillaume Faury, in a meeting in La Moncloa, in February.

Like the rest of the companies in the aeronautical sector, Airbus is going through its worst crisis due to the pandemic. The manufacturer trusts that European funds will help it get off the ground, but considers that the Spanish Government is not making enough effort to ensure that this aid reaches the aerospace sector. This is revealed by an internal report from the consortium in which it launches harsh criticism against the Executive of Pedro Sánchez for the “lack of coordination and leadership of public entities”, which has caused a blockage in the implementation of these funds. Furthermore, the company considers that under current conditions it is most likely that there will not be a strategic project for the aeronautical sector financed with the non-reimbursable aid that the EU is going to give to Spain. These total about 70,000 million that are to be delivered in about four years.

Airbus has factories in Seville, Getafe, Puerto Real, Illescas or Albacete. Under the title Spanish Recovery Funds-Memory of the current situation and the way to go, the report, dated at the beginning of October and to which EL PAÍS has had access, unambiguously comments on the insufficient involvement of the ministries of Economy, Science, Transport and Industry in achieving the PERTE (Strategic Project for Economic Recovery and Transformation) of the aerospace sector, which, in his opinion, makes the future of this plan very uncertain despite the promises of the Government.

For this reason, and in view of the inaction and the low political weight of these departments, the document recommends raising directly “to Moncloa” the claims about the projects that must be financed with these funds and seeking mediation, in particular, from the secretary general of the Department of Economic Affairs, Manuel de la Rocha.

The internal document begins by stating that “after the meetings held in recent weeks with our industrial partners, the CEOE and the Ministry of Science and Innovation have confirmed the blocking situation in the preparation of the PERTE in the aeronautical sector.” And he adds that “there is a lack of coordination and leadership among public entities that leaves the aeronautical PERTE in an indefinite situation.”

Next, it is recalled that “the Ministry of Science [actualmente encabezado por Diana Morant en sustitución de Pedro Duque] He was appointed to lead the definition and coordination of PERTE with the rest of the ministries involved, but the effort made in that direction has been limited so far ”. He also points out that the Center for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI), dependent on the ministry, complains that its scarce resources do not allow it to tackle other projects in the aeronautical sector.

Regarding the Ministry of Industry, of which Reyes Maroto is the head, he points out that it is leading a similar PERTE for the automobile sector, but that “it has limited resources and little political weight in the current Government.” The report highlights that although this department is willing to support the aeronautical PERTE, it has not taken any action in this regard.

The Ministry of Transport is not much better off [actualmente en manos de Raquel Sánchez, que sustituyó a José Luis Ábalos]. Although in this case it considers that “it has a strong political weight”, it has not launched actions or mandates for the Government to adopt active policies. In this sense, it ensures that the European Next Generation funds assigned to this ministry are committed to housing plans between 2022 and 2023.

The report also names both the Ministry of Economy and Digital Transition and the Ministry of Ecological Transition, indicating that they “have little interest in the aeronautical PERTE” and that they are focused on their own programs.

More benevolent is with the Ministry of Education, which he describes as the “only one who has reviewed in depth” the documents provided by Airbus, although he admits that the role of the department is that of a simple advisor. The document explains that Industry, Transportation and Science argue that only a political decision by the presidency can unblock the situation. And remember that the PERTE of the car, to which some 2,900 million have been allocated, is very slow and that its legal framework is not yet clear.

Three scenarios

Faced with this traffic jam, the report outlines three scenarios for obtaining aid. In the first, which is called PERTE in its entirety and contemplates the specific call for macro-projects for the sector, it warns that the legal framework is “uncertain”. The second, named as soft PERTE (light) and that includes only conventional calls for projects of a maximum of 40 million, it is considered a “probable scenario” but it is warned that it will require a strong involvement of Airbus to have them on time (before the end of 2021). Finally, the third framework, named as simple calls and that would not properly enter the funds of a PERTE, foresees projects with little technological content. And for Airbus it is the “most likely scenario” unless the consortium does something to remedy it.

For this reason, it proposes an urgent action plan that includes meetings with the ministers of Industry, Science and Transport, so that, once their position is clear, they go to Moncloa and obtain a definitive opinion on their future, emphasizing that we must obtain the support of Manuel de la Rocha, secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs. Once the government’s opinion is clear, Airbus advises holding a board meeting at the highest level to make the appropriate decisions.

Asked by this newspaper, Airbus, of which the State is a shareholder with 4.1%, has limited itself to pointing out: “As the driving force behind the aerospace and defense industry in Spain, Airbus maintains continuous contact with the Spanish Government and with the Ministries related to the sector. We trust that the aeronautical PERTE will go ahead before the end of the year, which will help revitalize and define a future roadmap for a strategic sector for Spain ”.

The Ministry of Industry alleges that it is not leading this project and that there are delays due to the steps that Europe is demanding so that the PERTE of the electric car can comply with the legal framework of State aid. But as soon as these barriers have been cleared, the way is clear for the other PERTEs to go much faster.

The latest document registered by the European Commission on Next Generation funds on October 29, 2021, includes two PERTEs of 400 million euros each in various areas, including aeronautics, scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2022, under the tutelage of the Ministry of Industry.

Last June, the Council of Ministers approved orders to the aerospace company worth 3,575 million euros for the period 2021-27. With these programs, the Government fulfills a large part of the commitments that President Pedro Sánchez acquired with the CEO of Airbus, Guillaume Faury, in the two meetings that both held in La Moncloa, in February of this year and July of last.

Delay in the allocation of EU resources

The Ministry of Finance affirms that of the 26,634 million budgeted for this year, 51.8% have been committed and 34.4% have been executed. It is true that the State has greatly accelerated the processing in recent months. However, a part of this execution are resources that are being injected into other Administrations and that have yet to be freed. The Fiscal Authority estimates that more than 60% of the funds that were projected for this year will not be spent in the year. And remember that until August only 104 million had been disbursed, according to data from the General State Intervention (IGAE).

The Government is already transferring to the autonomous communities more than 7,000 million euros from the European fund Next Generation. Of these, regional governments are already executing some items for health, vocational training, digitization, the Moves Plan or equality projects. But most of the resources remain idle. To the point that banks are already charging commissions for having these amounts deposited.

Sector conferences to distribute resources started in the summer. The communities governed by the PP denounce that they have not been consulted and that now they have to prepare everything with very little advance. All the autonomies agree that they have barely had a few months in which they have to make decisions, articulate the regulatory frameworks and issue the calls. Although the Treasury has passed a good part of the funds received to them – the European Commission has already given Spain some 9,000 million as an advance – a good part of the money will not reach the real economy until 2022.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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