- The proposals will be grouped into 20 larger projects and passed on the Spanish Government from the end of December to the beginning of January
- Vice-president Aragonès has demanded the state show "more agility, transparency and better coordination" with regard to managing proposals sent to the European Commission
- Minister Tremosa has asked for local Catalan companies to be “considered as driving forces” and be allowed to lead the bids for European funds
The Government of Catalonia has received over 500 projects seeking funding from European reconstruction funds to combat the impact of COVID-19 The Government aims to group these proposals into 20 large projects, which will be passed on to the Spanish Government from the end of December to the beginning of January. The Catalan Vice-President and Minister for the Economy and Finance, Pere Aragonès, and the Minister for Enterprise and Knowledge, Ramon Tremosa, appeared today before the Catalan Parliament to report on the analysis and selection of projects, conducted by the Catalan government in conjunction with the expert group of the Catalonia -Next Generation EU Advisory Committee (CONEXT CAT-EU).
"We have so far received 508 projects, demonstrating the capacity and energy of the Catalan economy and society", the Vice-President stressed. He explained that experts are working on these proposals to "‘find synergies, promote mergers and make them bigger, better and stronger" with the aim of producing around 20 projects that are "powerful, cutting-edge and transformational, and which will largely pave the way for the Catalan economy and society by 2030".
Aragonès announced that, at the start of January, these priority investment projects will be sent on to the Spanish government for inclusion in the Recovery and Resilience Plan that Spain will be presenting to the European Commission, as all the projects seeking European funding need to be channelled through the Member States. The Vice-President went on to stress that "Catalonia must be able to manage their allocation of the European reconstruction funds directly", as "we have the will and capacity to participate directly in reconstructing our countries and the EU as a whole".
Aragonès expressed regret at the lack of information given to the regions from the Spanish Government with regard to the strategy for obtaining European funds, and stated it was "essential" for there to be "greater agility, more transparency and better coordination". He also criticised the Spanish executive’s delay in holding the specific sector-based conference to coordinate regional participation in management of the funds. He further underlined that "It is of the utmost urgency that the sector-based conferences and other areas of negotiation be held so we know exactly what amounts we have to work with. We cannot accept the lack of transparency and sluggishness we are seeing at the moment".
"An opportunity to build the world of tomorrow"
During his speech, the Vice-President provided figures on the total volume of funding mobilised by the European authorities: 1.8 trillion euros in the EU Long-term Budget 2021-2027 (1.07 trillion financed by contributions from the Member States) and the new Next Generation EU instrument (750 billion euros financed by long-term debt issued by the EC). According to Aragonès, this huge financial injection must be used to "leave behind the old economy and open the way to a new more resilient economy, whose goal is to improve people’s lives and deliver social justice". He noted that "It is not about rebuilding yesterday’s world, but about seizing the opportunity to build the world of tomorrow". Faced with this challenge, Aragonès warned that "‘not just the Government of Catalonia but all government authorities and socio-economic agents must rise to the challenge in a context that demands social consensus".
"Centralising state-wide decisions is not synonymous with efficiency"
In his speech, the Minister for Business and Knowledge, Ramon Tremosa, called for local Catalan companies "to be considered driving forces" and lead the majority of approved Strategic Projects for Economic Recovery and Transition (known as PERTE). Tremosa claimed this demand was justified by the fact that such companies "will multiply the capacity to rebuild our economy"
The Minister criticised the Spanish government’s centralising tendency in channelling the funds. Specifically, Tremosa contrasted it with implementation in Belgium and Germany, where regions and federal states channel the projects, while Spain has centralised the process at the heart of state government, "Centralising decision-making is rarely synonymous with efficiency or effectiveness, as so often demonstrated in Spain".
The minister stressed that the Next Generation EU funds "are a unique opportunity provided by the pandemic" and warned that if things are not done in line with the European Union framework criteria "this will be the first and last time" they are offered. "Europe needs the jointly issued debt to be a success", he emphasised. In Catalonia, he stated, "there are many highly suitable projects", which is why Tremosa considers it "bad news" that assigning funding is being managed exclusively by central government. He noted that "through competitive bidding, Catalonia usually manages to obtain over 3% of funds, while only representing 1.5 of European GDP in relation to population". And he guaranteed the Catalan Government’s commitment to "maximising" the funds received and "not letting a single euro get away".