After Member States so far have only submitted proposals of their national recovery and resilience plans to Brussels, Portugal was the first country to officially submit its plan on 22 April 2021. The current EU Presidency not only leads the way in terms of speed, but also with regard to content and the will to engage in discussions.
The recovery package “Next Generation EU”, which the EU will use to support Member States on the way towards tackling the Covid-19 crisis, comprises up to 750 billion euros. The most important part of these funds comprises the total of 312.5 billion euros, which will be made directly available to Member States as grants within the scope of the so-called Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).
In order to actually claim the funds, Member States must first develop a detailed national recovery and resilience plan, in which they describe, which projects they want to support. They have to do this until the end of April 2021. At least 37 % of the RRF grants have been reserved for green projects, 20 % have to be allocated to digitalisation projects.
Within the scope of the RRF, Portugal will receive 13.9 billion euros of the direct grants plus possible loans. The submitted final plan provides for a total of 20 chapters, which are divided into three main areas: resilience, climate and digital issues. Particularly noteworthy is the fact, that a strong socio-political focus has been attached to the chapter ‘Resilience’: 1.6 billion euros alone have been allocated to the chapter ‘Housing’, plus over 1 billion euros loans for social housing and 1.3 billion euros to the chapter “Qualifications and Skills”, which comprises programmes both for young people and adults. Further 1.3 billion have been earmarked for the health system and 0.8 billion for improving care, childcare, the integration of disadvantaged groups and of social welfare offers, in particular in major cities.
The situation is different in Austria, where Government adopts the National Recovery and Resilience Plan on without a major debate and without the serious integration of social partners and civil society. In comparison: Portugal had already started the process in autumn, involving among other social partners, civil society and scientists, before the draft was subjected to a broad public and parliamentary debate in February. AK President Renate Anderl and ÖGB President Wolfgang Katzian criticised Austria’s approach not only because of the lack of integration of social partners and because of the insufficient consideration of the proposals by AK and ÖGB in preparation of the plan, but also because of the large social vacuum, as there are little labour market impulses and fighting poverty is only a marginal issue.
Whilst Portugal is setting a good example, the social dimension also remains limited in other proposals of the Member States on recovery plans. However, it is now more important than ever to support people and to set the course for a sustainable development of wealth and wellbeing. For that reason, AK EUROPA, together with 20 further organisations, calls on the EU Finance Ministers: Europe must take the opportunity to create an economic system that is both socially and environmentally sustainable and resilient and which guarantees a better standard of living for all people. Everybody can support this appeal on rethinktherecovery.org.