The European Parliament today approved the EU’s proposed Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), worth €672.5 billion, at its plenary session in Brussels.
The RRF is the major part of the Next Generation EU recovery package, designed to help lead the EU out of the coronavirus pandemic and create a “modern and more sustainable Europe”. That package, including the RRF, is worth €750 billion.
The RRF is available in the form of loans and grants to help members states deal with the economic and social outcomes of the pandemic over the next three years. It can also be backdated to assist programmes that started as far back as February 2020.
“To be eligible for financing, national recovery and resilience plans must focus on key EU policy areas – the green transition including biodiversity, digital transformation, economic cohesion and competitiveness, and social and territorial cohesion,” the Parliament explained in an announcement of the vote.
“Those that focus on how institutions react to crisis and supporting them to prepare for it, as well as policies for children and youth, including education and skills, are also eligible for financing.”
“Let’s remember that there is a pan-European dimension to all of this,” commented Roger Casale, Secretary General of citizens’ rights NGO New Europeans. “Some of the recovery budget is funded by Eurobonds. So where are the pan-European mechanisms for giving citizens a voice in monitoring use of these funds?
“The delayed Conference on the Future of Europe would be an excellent place to start with addressing the new democratic deficit that is emerging about the use of the recovery funds and new EU budget.”
At the EU summit in December, it was agreed that Belgium would receive €5.95 billion from the Next Generation package, but the way that money would be split up led to complaints from Brussels Region that it was being virtually ignored.
After the federal and regional governments, and the language communities had divided up the total, the final tally was as follows: €1.25 billion for the federal government; €2.25 billion for the Flemish government (including the Flemish community); €1.48 billion for the Walloon government and €495 million for the French-speaking community.
Brussels region would receive only €395 million, the second-lowest share after the German-speaking community’s €50 million.
“Today’s vote means that money will go to people and regions affected by the pandemic, that support is coming to fight this crisis and to build our strength to overcome future challenges,” said Siegfried Mureşan, one of the MEPs leading the negotiations.
“The RRF will help to modernise our economies and make them cleaner and greener. We have set out the rules on how to spend the money but left them flexible enough to meet the different needs of member states. Finally, this money must not be used for ordinary budgetary expenditures but for investment and reforms.”
The measure will come into force once it has been formally approved by the Council of Ministers.