Restarting European economies in the aftermath of Covid-19 on a more sustainable basis through the newly launched EU-wide recovery fund is the next step in addressing the repercussions of the health crisis, the European Commission said this week, presenting its strategy for 2021.
The Commission presented its 2021 Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy which includes a set of goals to be met through the use of 672.5 billion euros in financial aid.
As part of its NextGenerationEU project, the funds are aimed at helping the EU emerge stronger and more resilient from the current crisis through investments and reforms in seven flagship areas focused on environmental sustainability, productivity, fairness and macroeconomic stability.
More specifically, member states can tap into the funds provided they submit draft plans outlining national investment and reform agendas in line with the aforementioned criteria.
EU states should submit final plans by 30 April 2021 and are encouraged to submit preliminary draft plans as of 15 October 2020.
Plans should also focus on economic growth, job creation and economic and social resilience, as well as to meet the green and digital transitions.
“We should continue to support workers and companies during this crisis, while being mindful of preserving fiscal sustainability in the medium-term,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, executive vice-president for an economy that works for people.
Under its current guidance for proposals, the Commission encourages member states to include in their plans investment and reforms in the following areas:
– Future-proof clean technologies and acceleration of the development and use of renewables,
– The improvement of energy efficiency of public and private buildings,
– The promotion of future-proof clean technologies to accelerate the use of sustainable, accessible and smart transport, charging and refuelling stations and extension of public transport,
– The fast rollout of rapid broadband services to all regions and households, including fiber and 5G networks,
– The digitalization of public administration and services, including judicial and healthcare systems,
– The increase in European industrial data cloud capacities and the development of the most powerful, cutting edge, and sustainable processors,
– The adaptation of education systems to support digital skills and educational and vocational training for all ages.
“The recovery and resilience facility is at the very heart of NextGenerationEU. It is our key tool to turn the immediate challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic into a long-term opportunity. Member States need clear guidance to ensure the facility’s 672 billion euros is invested both for Europe’s immediate economic recovery, but also for long-term sustainable and inclusive growth,” said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The Commission is urging the European Parliament and the Council to approve the aid facility so that it goes into effect on 1 January 2021.