Pablo Casado’s PP continues with its offensive in Brussels against the coalition government, focused in recent weeks on sowing suspicion about the management of recovery funds. Spain has awarded 140,000 until 2026, slightly less than half in transfers and the same in credits. The Government, for the moment, has only requested part of the subsidies, after presenting a recovery plan at the end of last April approved with a note by Brussels. From there, it has already received 9,000 million in pre-financing and another 10,000, at the end of 2021, corresponding to the first tranche of the plan’s execution, that is, corresponding to the completion of milestones, goals, investments and reforms agreed upon for the first half of 2021.
And so the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, remembered it.
However, the PP MEP Isabel Benjumea asked this Tuesday in the joint commission on Employment and Economic Affairs the Commissioner for Finance, Paolo Gentiloni, and the economic vice president, Valdis Dombrovskis, about the mechanisms to control the execution in Spain of the fund of recovery and resilience.
And both have reminded her of what the regulation that she herself voted for in the European Parliament says: that the European recovery and resilience fund is based on the fact that the money arrives after the objectives are met, not before. That is, after the commitments are executed, not before, depending on the green and digital transitions and the recommendations of the European Semester.
“I wanted to ask what measures the European Commission is going to put in place to guarantee that the resilience mechanism for economic recovery is actually implemented,” said Benjumea, “and specifically I want to refer to the Spanish case, where the European Commission has delivered 9,000 million and then another 12,000 [sic] millions [en realidad fueron 9.000 + 10.000 millones] and we don’t know the actual execution data”.
“The success of the recovery plans depends on the real execution of the funds, we need the money that the European Commission is sending to the States to reach the citizens,” insisted Benjumea.
The European Commissioner for Finance, Paolo Gentiloni, responded: “In relation to Spain, the decision was made quickly because many of the objectives were related to decisions and initiatives already completed and adopted by the authorities, something that is legal and what other countries have done.
“Now we are beginning the evaluation of new reforms and milestones, such as the labor market and pensions. And in this case, we strongly support the agreements reached with the social agents [como es el caso de la reforma laboral pactada entre Gobierno, CEOE y sindicatos]Gentiloni continued.
The economic vice-president of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, has been in charge of reminding Benjumea of the operation of the mechanism: “It is an instrument that is based on meeting objectives, money is given when goals are met. When investments have been met and reforms, and the European Commission checks if that’s the case, then the money is disbursed.
Dombrovskis, moreover, has recalled that there graphs of follow-up and compliance with the plan and the objectives of the 27 Member States “public and available”.
The vice-president of Los Verdes in the European Parliament and MEP of Catalunya en Comú, Ernest Urtasun, has underlined that the questioning of Casado’s PP is not only being directed towards the Government of Spain, but also towards the European Commission and the commissioners, co-responsible for European money is used correctly.
The European Commission has already recalled two weeks ago that the EU and the States have mechanisms to control the funds after the offensive by Isabel Díaz Ayuso and Pablo Casado.
Community spokesperson for economic affairs, Veerle Nuyts, said: “It is very important to remember that the Recovery and Resilience Fund requires a monitoring framework that is tailored and proportionate to its unique nature as a goal-based programme.”
Thus, Nuyts has pointed out that “the national control systems of the Member States will be the main instrument to safeguard the financial interests of the Union, and the Member States must guarantee compliance with national and Union laws, including prevention, effective detection and correction of conflicts of interest, corruption and fraud, and double financing. Member States must explain, and Spain explained in its Recovery and Resilience Plan, the relevant provisions to achieve precisely that. Although we did not comment on a possible impact of this procedure [la denuncia de Isabel Díaz Ayuso ante el Supremo] in implementation [del plan], we want to remind you that the Commission expects the Spanish plan to be implemented as agreed”.
The community spokesperson also explained that “whenever there is a request for payment”, such as the one presented by Spain in November, “the Member States must sign a declaration that the funds were actually used for the intended purpose”.
Likewise, Nuyts recalled, “the Commission will also set up its own control system, with the possibility of carrying out on-the-spot verifications, for example, to really make sure that the funds were used properly”.
“In any case”, he insisted, “OLAF is also [agencia europea antifraude], the Court of Auditors, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and the European Commission itself, which can access relevant data and investigate the use of funds if necessary, and even if milestones and objectives have been met”.
In this sense, if the European Commission finds “serious irregularities and the Member State does not take the timely and appropriate measures to correct them and recover the corresponding funds, the Commission may also take measures.”