Much belatedly, Brussels has given its approval to the Spain’s plan to spend the 37.3 billion euros of European regional aid that has been awarded for the period 2021-2027, of which two years have already been lost. The Commission of Ursula von der Leyen had criticized the government of Pedro Sanchez by postpone in a “very regrettable” way the presentation of the plan for structural funds and focus exclusively on the 70 billion Next Generation grants.
In fact, Spain’s plan has been one of the last to be approved by the Community Executive: number 24 out of a total of 27. Brussels has yet to give its go-ahead to the different regional programs (a total of 45), before the money begins to be disbursed. Spain is the third country that will receive the most European structural funds during the 2021-2027 period, only behind Poland (75,000 million) and Italy (42,000 million).
“Spain has access to unprecedented resources through the cohesion policy and the recovery and resilience plan. Therefore, Spain has the extraordinary opportunity to reduce territorial disparities based on a new sustainable economic model that allows the country to be more ecological and competitive”, said the Commissioner for Regional Policy, the Portuguese Elisa Ferreirait’s a statement.
[España, a la cola de la Unión Europea en la ejecución de fondos regionales: 40.250 millones sin gastar]
The Spanish plan to spend structural funds focuses on the autonomous communities with the lowest GDP: 50% of the funds will be allocated to investments in Andalusia, Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha, Ceuta and Melilla. For its part, the Canary Islands, as the outermost region of the EU, will receive an additional allocation of 673 million to deal with the socioeconomic consequences of its distance from the continent.
Of the total assigned to Spain of 37,300 million euros, more than 9,000 million will be invested in the ecological transition. Of this amount, 1,800 million will be used to achieve the energy saving target of 39.5% in 2030, while 3,300 million will go to promote renewable energy. Aid is also provided for the prevention of natural catastrophes and the response to floods, fires and droughts.
The plan includes 870 million charged to the Just Transition Fund. A chapter that will help regions that have closed or are planning to close coal minesCO2-intensive industrial facilities and coal-fired power plants: the provinces of La Coruña, Asturias, León, Palencia, Teruel, Córdoba, Almería, Cádiz and the Balearic Islands (Alcudia and some surrounding municipalities).
Others 8,500 million of the structural funds are dedicated to boosting the growth, competitiveness and productivity of small and medium-sized enterprises, through investments that promote research and innovation in sectors with high added valueas reported by the Community Executive.
The Spanish plan also reserves a total of 11.3 billion euros for social cohesion and employment. Money that will be spent, among other things, on incentives for hiring long-term unemployed and people belonging to vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities; as well as for the conversion of internship contracts into indefinite-term contracts to support the new labor market reform in Spain.
The chapter on strengthening integration and social policies will have an endowment of more than 4,000 million. Of this amount, about 1 billion will be used specifically to fight poverty and safeguard children’s rights to education and access to social services, in line with the European Child Guarantee.
European funding will also go to improve the quality and effectiveness of primary care. It will support the construction, renovation and improvement of health centers and hospitals, and will allow Spain to invest in the necessary equipment for specialized care.
Finally, the Spanish plan includes a chapter of 1,100 million euros charged to the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (FEMPA). The FEMPA program will focus on sustainable management of fisheries resources, protection of the marine environment, adaptation to climate change and protection of the environment.
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