Spain and Portugal became the first European Union countries on Wednesday to receive the green light from Brussels for their recovery plans, financed by an unprecedented joint loan intended to overcome the economic consequences of the pandemic.
“The European Commission has decided to give the green light to the Spanish recovery and resilience plan,” the president of the institution Ursula von der Leyen told Madrid a few hours after having validated the Portuguese plan in Lisbon and before continuing. His tour Thursday in Athens and Copenhagen.
Spain will be the second beneficiary after Italy of the mega-European recovery plan of 750 billion euros, fiercely negotiated by the 27 until its adoption in July 2020.
Madrid is to receive some 140 billion in total, of which 70 are in direct grants and the same in loans.
Mrs von der Leyen was received by the head of the Spanish government Pedro Sanchez at the headquarters of the national manager of the electricity network as Spain intends to devote the bulk of its plan to the energy transition.
“It is a historic day, for Spain (…) but also for Europe”, declared Mr. Sanchez, recalling that his plan contained “more than 100 structural reforms”, requested by Brussels in exchange for funds.
In Lisbon, the president of the Commission had previously visited an educational center dedicated to the sciences to illustrate the desire of Portugal, which is to receive 16 billion euros in lost funds, to invest in innovation and education.
Portugal, which holds the six-monthly presidency of the EU, wanted to set an example by becoming the first country in April to submit its investment projects to Brussels.
Ms von der Leyen thanked Lisbon for having “played a crucial role in making the recovery mechanism a reality” and Madrid for its “excellent” cooperation in the negotiations.
The big European recovery plan “is our only chance to move towards a greener, more digital, more sustainable society”, underlined Mrs von der Leyen.
– Savings badly affected –
Most of the other member states have also returned their copies and will, in turn, receive a visit from Mrs von der Leyen, who traveled for the first time on Wednesday with the European health pass, which will officially enter into force on 1 July.
The European Council will then give its formal approval within one month of the validation by the Commission. The first installments are scheduled for July.
Portugal and Spain, “two countries in southern Europe, which in the past have not felt accompanied, have benefited this time from support and extraordinary generosity from their partners. of the North, “Toni Roldan, director of the EsadeEcPol economic policy research center in Madrid, told AFP.
Spain was one of the countries most affected by the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in spring 2020, while Portugal was struck at the start of the year. Very dependent on tourism, their economies have suffered enormously.
Since the debt crisis of 2011, Lisbon and Madrid have often found themselves on the front line in the face of attacks from so-called “frugal” countries who were reluctant to finance the spending of southern European countries, according to the less virtuous in management. of their public finances.
To finance this massive recovery, the EU had to agree on an unprecedented mechanism that enabled it to carry out on Tuesday the first issue of joint debt, in the amount of 20 billion euros, hailed by Mrs von der Leyen as “the largest operation” of this type ever carried out in Europe.
– European solidarity –
The everyday use of borrowing, unprecedented, embodies European solidarity in the face of the Covid-19 crisis.
This money should facilitate the modernization of the European economy, with ecology and digital technology as priority objectives.
Concretely, these investments will finance the thermal renovation of buildings, railway projects, charging stations for electric vehicles, high-speed telecommunications networks or even data storage infrastructures.
The Commission plans to raise € 100 billion in long-term bonds by the end of the year to finance national plans.