The European Commission has given its approval to Belgium’s plan for the relaunch of the economy post-pandemic.
The approval means Belgium can now start receiving the €5.9 billion in aid earmarked for the country under the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility.
For the EU as a whole, the plan foresees up to €672.5 billion to support investments and reforms across the EU.
“The Belgian plan forms part of an unprecedented coordinated EU response to the COVID-19 crisis, to address common European challenges by embracing the green and digital transitions, to strengthen economic and social resilience and the cohesion of the Single Market,” the Commission said in a press release.
Commission president Ursula von der Leyen presented Belgium’s successful report card in person to prime minister Alexander De Croo, in the presence of the three regional ministers-president, and Thomas Dermine (PS), secretary of state for the relaunch.
Belgium’s so-called recovery and resilience plan was hammered out, as is the Belgian way, by the federal and regional governments, and all of the parties that gathering represents – essentially all but the extreme-left (PTB/PVDA) and extreme-right (Vlaams Belang).
The EU money is intended for projects that make the economy greener and more digital, and Belgium’s plans for those goals won approval. Of particular interest was a project worth more that €1 billion to make government buildings but also homes more energy-efficient.
In the original plan drawn up by the government, almost one in five of the euros granted by the EU would have gone to making buildings use less energy. The total pot at that time came to €7.7 billion, so everything has had to be scaled back accordingly, but the proportion is likely to remain similar.
Most of that money will go in the form of subsidies to private owners to make their buildings more energy-efficient. But government agencies will also receive finance, including €60 million towards the eternal work on the Brussels Justice Palace, which Dermine described as “a symbolically important case”.
“Today, the European Commission has decided to give its green light to Belgium's recovery and resilience plan. NextGenerationEU will play a crucial role in financing the investments and reforms necessary to build the future we are committed to,” von der Leyen said.
“The €5.9 billion available to Belgium will finance measures that will contribute to building a greener, more digital future for all of its citizens. The plan places a particularly strong emphasis on measures that will accelerate Belgium's green transition, with 50% of financing directed towards achieving climate objectives. We will stand by Belgium every step of the way to ensure the vision contained in the plan is fully realised.”
“In total, EUR 5.9 billion will be earmarked for investment and structural reforms with a plan that is greener and more digital than the European Commission requires,” De Croo commented.
“At the beginning of this week it turned out that Belgium is leading the way as one of the most innovative countries in Europe. This plan further strengthens that innovative power.”