This opinion is based on a referral by the Slovenian Presidency of the Council.
It's main objective is to assess the implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Facility with regards to its specific aims, not least that of supporting cohesion, and from the perspective of local and regional authorities. Active engagement of local and regional authorities in the preparation of the national recovery and resilience plans is a key demand of the CoR that must be followed up on, as is the contribution of those plans to tackling the specific challenges faces by cities and regions.
This opinion is an opportunity to follow up on the CoR opinion on the Recovery and Resilience Facility, explore whether its demands have been met, and make recommendations for the continued implementation of the Facility. In particular, the opinon argued for a stronger involvement of local and regional authorities in its implementation via their active engagement in the preparation of the national recovery and resilience plans. While the final regulation did not impose this on Member States, it does mandate them to report on the preparation process, including the consultations held with local and regional authorities and there results. The Commission has stated that it will be attentive to this element of the plans and the CoR must follow up on this.
This opinion puts forward the Committee of the Regions' assessment of the early implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Facility, i.e. largely the process of preparation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans. It highlights that active engagement of local and regional authorities in the preparation of the national recovery and resilience plans (a key demand of the CoR) has often been lacking and raises risks for the instrument's implementation and effectiveness.
The opinion is a crucial element in the CoR's broader body of work on the RRF, which also includes an earlier opinion on the RRF Regulation, several studies and consultations of LRAs, as well as a number of events and debates. Taken together, the CoR's work in this field has had a significant impact on the interinstitutional debates and procedures related to the RRF. For instance the Commission has repeatedly expressed that it stresses the importance of active engagement with LRAs in its discussions with Member States on the preparation and implementation of the plans (although the regulation does not give it grounds to enforce this legally). The European Parliament has shown significant interest in the analytical work and political views of the CoR, as demonstrated by the invitations of the CoR to the joint ECON-BUDG parliamentary working group on the scrutiny of the RRF on three separate occasions in June 2021, October 2021 and May 2022.
On 30 May, the ECON and BUDG committees adopted their report on RRF implementation, which takes on board the CoR's call for better involvement of local and regional authorities, and makes direct reference to the CoR opinion and to the results of the recent consultation on the RRF undertaken by the CoR and CEMR. These elements were preserved in the final Resolution adopted in Plenary on 23 June.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- stresses that local and regional authorities (LRAs) have been at the forefront of the fight against the COVID-19 crisis and its socio-economic consequences since the outbreak of the pandemic, both through their own policies and by implementing and enforcing decisions taken by national governments;
- notes that as can be seen from studies by the CoR, the EPC, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the CPMR, LRAs have been insufficiently involved in the preparation process of national recovery and resilience plans, and that the extent to which LRA input into the plans has been incorporated in most cases cannot be ascertained;
- also regrets that, in most Member States, preparing the NRRPs has been a top-down process, which carries the risk of centralising important public investment and has an impact on the ultimate success of the Recovery and Resilience Facility. This is at odds with the importance of multilevel governance, the principle of subsidiarity and the process of devolution that has taken place in many Member States in recent decades, not least with regard to the programmes under the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF);
- considers that for a sound implementation of the NRRPs with regularly involved LRAs, a thorough reform of the European semester is necessary, not only in the light of the lessons learned from preparing the NRRPs, but also in order to make it a genuine tool for the EU's long-term objectives, be it in the context of Fit for 55, the digital transition, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, or to reach climate neutrality by 2050.