The economic and social recovery, as well as the green and digital transitions, can only succeed if local and regional authorities are directly involved in preparing and implementing the national recovery and resilience plans (NRRPs).
A close partnership among all level of governance, social partners and NGOs is of paramount importance to ensure that NRRPs match territorial needs and avoid overlaps with other EU policies and funds. These are the main messages sent by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) to national governments and EU institutions through an opinion drafted by Rob Jonkman, Alderman in the municipality of Opsterland, in the Netherlands. The text was adopted by unanimity at the CoR Plenary on 1 December.
Members of the European Committee of the Regions regret that, in most Member States, preparing the NRRPs has been mainly a top-down process and voice their concerns over the lack of sub-national involvement in the implementation and evaluation phases. This approach carries the risk of centralising important public investments and overlooking territorial differences, thus undermining the impact of recovery plans.
As a consequence, the opinion argues, regions that were already lagging behind in their development before the outbreak of the pandemic could suffer an even greater development gap, be it in employment, business support, digitalisation or other key policy areas. Moreover, the insufficient involvement of regions and municipalities carries the risk of overlapping investments between the recovery and the cohesion policy's funds, creating competition between them. For this reason, local leaders find encouraging that the European Commission will soon put online the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) Scoreboard. As outlined in a letter sent by Commission's Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis to the CoR's President Apostolos Tzitzikostas and the Chair of the CoR's Commission for Economic Policy, Michael Murphy, the new scoreboard will provide information on the processing of the payment requests from the Member States and, when possible, include more territorially oriented method of monitoring.
The rapporteur, Rob Jonkman (NL/ECR), Alderman of the municipality of Opsterland, said: "The Recovery and Resilience Facility is the result of a historic agreement between EU leaders and is an ambitious tool to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis. However, while local and regional authorities have been at the forefront of the fight to cope with the socio-economic consequences from the beginning of the pandemic, in many Member States we are at the back of the pack when it comes to involvement in recovery plans. We are in need of cooperation, not centralisation.”
Local and regional authorities are responsible for one-third of all public expenditure and more than half of public investment in the EU, a large portion of which is in policy areas that are key for the Recovery and Resilience Facility, the cornerstone of the recovery plan Next Generation EU. It is therefore important that cities and regions are directly involved in designing and implementing the NRRPs, in order to successfully implement the reforms and investments contained therein.
For many municipalities and regions, the COVID-19 crisis has led to a decrease in revenue and an increase in expenditure. The second Regional and Local Barometer, published in October by the CoR, estimates that the financial gap was of EUR 180 billion for 2020 alone. The CoR argues that the EU and its Member States have a duty to urgently help local and regional authorities to absorb the shocks on their finances and make European economies and societies more sustainable, resilient and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions, also via national recovery plans.
The CoR also asks the European Commission to include a section on the involvement of local and regional authorities in its annual report on the implementation of the RRF, and calls on the European Parliament to play its full role as watchdog over the achievement of the recovery plans' goals, involving local and regional authorities on a regular basis.
On 24 September, the CoR – together with the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU – the first High-Level Forum on Regional Recovery and Resilience. During the event, which was held in Lipica (Slovenia), the European Commissioner for Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, stressed that only by working together with regions and municipalities can national recovery plans succeed. You can read the press release here.
The EU's Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is the EUR 723.8 billion financial instrument (in current prices, of which EUR 338 billion in grants and EUR 385.8 billion in loans) designed to support Member States in carrying out reforms and investing in the EU's common priorities. The RRF is the biggest financial tool included in the EUR 801 billion recovery plan Next Generation EU. To benefit from the RRF's support, Member States should present national recovery and resilience plans indicating the reforms and investments that would be financed.
CoR study on the involvement of regional and local authorities in the in the preparation and implementation of eight National Recovery and Resilience Plans (June 2021).
CoR-CEMR joint consultation on the preparation of NRRPs. The full results are available here (January 2021).
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