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Over-centralised Recovery Plans risk increasing disparities between territories  

​​ The RRF review report is a "missed opportunity" because of its lack of a territorial dimension.

National Recovery and Resilience Plans may be less efficient and have less impact than desired if regions and cities are not effectively involved in their implementation, members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) said on 8 February in an opinion critical of some national governments' EU-funded efforts to boost recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In recommendations unanimously adopted at a Plenary of the CoR, local and regional leaders urged Member States and the European Commission to transform the current centralised governance of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) into a multi-level approach, to boost the digital and green transitions, strengthen cohesion and avoid overlaps with other financial instruments.

Local and regional authorities account for one-third of all public expenditure and more than half (53%) of public investment in the EU, they provide crucial public services to citizens, and they invest in key policy areas covered by the National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs) financed by extraordinary EU funds released in the framework of the EU's economic recovery package, Next Generation EU. Despite this vital role, cities and regions have so far often been neglected in the monitoring and implementation of the European Union’s €724 billion RRF, as demonstrated by two surveys conducted in 2021 and 2022.

In the opinion unanimously adopted by the CoR on 8 February, local and regional leaders therefore voice criticism of the review report on the RRF published in July 2022 by the European Commission, describing it as a "missed opportunity". The rapporteur, Rob Jonkman (NL/EPP), alderman of the municipality of Opsterland, said: " Local and regional authorities have important competences in the six pillars of the RRF, from green transition, digital transformation to economic and territorial cohesion and competitiveness. Cities' and regions’ involvement in the further implementation is therefore a matter not only of logic and fairness, but also necessary for the RRF to effectively achieve its stated objectives. As such, local and regional authorities should be recognised and treated as partners, not so-called 'stakeholders'. We need more partnership and multi-level cooperation, not more centralisation. "

CoR members contend that the review report does not analyse a number of points that are crucial for the successful implementation of the RRF, such as the governance of the NRRPs and related processes and the RRF's effective contribution to cohesion. They argue that the review report's focus on the centralised approach led to territorial differences being overlooked, both in terms of challenges and opportunities. As a result, some NRRPs may be less efficient and less impactful than anticipated. This puts regions that were already lagging behind in their development before the outbreak of the pandemic at risk of an even greater development gap, in key policy areas such as employment, educational attainment, business support, digitalisation, and mobility.

Background:

The EU's Recovery and Resilience Facility is the €723.8 billion financial instrument (in current prices, of which €338 billion in grants and €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 over €800 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.

The CoR and the Council of European Municipalities and Regions carried out two joint consultations in 2021 and 2022 to explore the involvement of local and regional authorities in the designing and the implementation of the NRRPs. Both highlighted that, on average, too often National Recovery and Resilience Plans have been implemented as top-down processes, on which municipalities and regions seemingly have little to no impact. The results of the consultations can be consulted here (May 2022) and here (January 2021).

Rob Jonkman was also rapporteur of another CoR opinion on the implementation of the RRF, adopted in December 2021 by the Committee.

Contact:

Matteo Miglietta

Tel. +32 (0) 470 89 53 82

matteo.miglietta@cor.europa.eu


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