The campaign of the Popular Party to sow doubts about the government’s management of the EU recovery funds has come face to face this Tuesday, for the second time, with the wall of the European Commission: before a question from the popular MEP Isabel Benjumea, during a session in the European Parliament, both the Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, and the Economic Vice President, Valdis Dombrovskis, have closed ranks and replied that Spain, to date, has met the agreed objectives, which is why it became the only Member State to obtain a first disbursement of 10,000 million before the end of 2021. This decision “was made very quickly” because the Spanish government “had already executed” many of the milestones, Gentiloni pointed out. Executive sources consulted by EL PAÍS have valued that the community institutions “have once again verified compliance with the requirements and distribution criteria” of the funds and that these do not discriminate against the autonomies governed by the Conservatives.
This is the first time that Pablo Casado’s PP brings doubts and suspicions about the management of the Spanish plan to the European institutions, through a question in an official session in the European Parliament. But the matter has been flying over Brussels for days. A spokesman for the Commission had already responded last week about the Spanish controversy, to questions from the press. The Community Executive, through this representative, ignored the issue by ensuring that it is the responsibility of each Member State “to distribute the funds in accordance with the established rules.”
Benjumea has taken advantage of the appearance of Gentiloni and Dombrovskis this Tuesday in the joint Commission on Economic and Employment Affairs of the European Parliament to question the implementation of the reforms by the Government and has demanded greater control by Brussels. “What concrete measures is the Commission going to put in place to guarantee that a real execution takes place?”, He questioned in his intervention. “Real execution means that the money reaches SMEs, citizens, the day-to-day economy,” he pointed out, in line with Genoa’s usual criticism of the Spanish recovery plan, a package of 140,000 million euros, split equally between grants and loans. For its disbursement, until 2026, Spain must demonstrate that it is complying with all the reforms and investments to which it has committed.
“It is an instrument based on results,” Dombrovskis emphasized in his reply, shedding light on the operation and supervision of European recovery plans. “This money is disbursed when a series of objectives are met, that is, when the countries carry out the execution, the implementation of the investments and the reforms that have been foreseen in the plans.” The Vice President of the European Commission added that it is the Community Executive who is responsible for verifying whether these commitments have been fulfilled correctly. “And, if so, then the money is made available.”
Brussels will closely monitor the implementation of the plans
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Gentiloni added that Brussels intends to “closely monitor and evaluate” the implementation of the national plans. “It is fundamental in order to produce the impact that they have to have. […] in the recovery of our economy. And regarding the first disbursement to Spain, he specified that many of the objectives “had to do with decisions and initiatives that the Spanish authorities had already executed”, something “that was legal and that other Member States have also been doing”. Now, Brussels has just started “the evaluation of the new reforms and the new objectives and milestones, such as the labor market and the pension reform”, he mentioned, without going into the content. “But of course I tell you that we support the agreements that exist between the social agents and the different actors involved”, the Commissioner for the Economy settled.
Brussels endorsed at the beginning of December last year the approval of the first payment of 10,000 million euros to Spain after verifying the fulfillment of 52 commitments contemplated in the Spanish recovery plan, as announced at the time by the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. “Spain has advanced enough in the implementation of its national Next Generation plan”, said Von der Leyen, leaving the disbursement subject to pending final authorization by the Member States; this decision came at the end of December.
Oblivious to the little impact that their complaints are receiving in Brussels, the PP insisted on Tuesday in Madrid on making criticism of the distribution of European funds the central argument of its opposition to the Government. At the meeting of the Permanent Council, the PP spokesperson, Cuca Gamarra, asked that Congress audit the funds through the Budget Office of the Cortes Generales. The popular will submit a letter to this budgetary control body requesting all the information on the effective execution of the aid in 2021. Gamarra affirmed that the management of the funds is an example of “Sanchista Peronism” and criticized the “obscurantist, arbitrary and partisan” of the same. “The President of the Government uses European money as if they were reserved funds for personal and discretionary distribution and not a national heritage that belongs to all Spaniards and that must be distributed objectively,” the spokeswoman denounced, reports Elsa Garcia de Blas.
Madrid, with 1,213 million, insists on an “ideological” distribution
The PP does not correct its strategy despite the setbacks it has received from the European institutions. Enrique Ossorio, spokesman for the Government of Isabel Díaz Ayuso, insisted on Tuesday that the distribution of funds by autonomous communities is “absolutely shameful.” The representative of the Community of Madrid has alluded to “ideological criteria”, ignoring that Madrid is the third autonomous region that has benefited the most from the distribution carried out by the Government of Pedro Sánchez. Specifically, he has allocated 1,213 million euros, which represents 12% of all the plan’s funds allocated to the communities. Madrid denounced in court the distribution of an item of 9 million funds in pilot projects for youth employment in Euskadi, Navarra, Extremadura and the Valencian Community.
The First Vice President and Minister of Economy, Nadia Calviño, who will appear at her own request in Congress to report on the process of distribution and execution of the funds, on Monday called the PP’s accusations of different treatment as “a campaign that has neither head and feet.” After accusing the PP of “boycotting” the funds to Spain by sowing doubts about the alleged partisanship with which the Government would be acting, Calviño recalled that four of the six communities that have received the most money “are from the PP and only one is socialist.” As of December 31, 2021, 11,151 million have been allocated to communities that will be allocated to public policies linked to the green transition, digitization, science, culture, social protection, sustainable tourism, employment, education and training professional. Andalusia (PP) heads the list with 1,916 million. Catalonia (ERC and Junts) is the recipient of 1,579 million. The Valencian Community (PSOE) is the fourth after Madrid (1,055 million). Castilla y León (PP), with 742 million, and Galicia (PP), with 681, are the next best treated.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.