EU Commission and Spain

Trade and Economics - March 18, 2024

On 31 May 2023, the Barcelona Circle of Economy invited to its annual meeting Mrs. Nadia Calviño, Minister for the Economy in Spain’s socialist-communist Government.  At the meeting, the social-democrat politician announced that she would request EUR 94.3 billion of EU funding before the forthcoming general election on 23 July 2023. The funding would mostly be in the form of loans, to be repaid by the following generations of Spaniards.

Scarcely two weeks after, on 16 June 2023, ECR Member of the European Parliament Jorge Buxadé Villalba posed a question on the matter, directed to Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni:  Whether the European Commission would allow for new grants to be released, when to this date Mrs. Calviño has refused to explain how much of the Recovery and Resilience Facility funding already disbursed has actually reached final beneficiaries.

It is a fact well-known that Paolo Gentiloni is a socialist, but at the same time one expects an objective and neutral behaviour on behalf of the institution he works for.  At least that same institution often boasts of such objectivity and neutrality when unwilling to delve into other delicate matters.

In this case, on 1 August 2023, the said Commissioner simply responded that the implementation of Spain’s current recovery and resilience plan is currently in line with the agreed timetable, laid out in the Council Implementing Decision approving the Commission’s positive assessment of the plan.

However, this fails to answer Mr. Buxade’s question; or worse still, it proves that the European Commission does not wish to look into the fact that the Recovery and Resilience Facility funding does not reach final beneficiaries in Spain, that is, it reaches other ends – and still the European Commission is ready to further allocate European citizen’s monies without control to that friendly Member State, even when explicitly told off about it by a Member of the European Parliament.

Jorge Buxadé went further in his controlling of the Commissioner’s negligent attitude.  On 23 July, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had called for general elections to be held on that date.  Yet his own Minister for the Economy had decided to ask for further European loans up to 2026, thereby binding the hands of a future government potentially coming out of the polls (and still to be decided upon when these lines are drafted).

Once more, this did not appear to be a problem for Mr. Gentiloni to accept such revision of the plan.  In order to justify his answer, he simply called Spain a “frontrunner” in Resilience and Recovery Facility (RRF) implementation, and confirmed having taken note of the general election called by Spanish Prime Minister Sanchez in rather general terms.  Fortunately, he added that the Commission would be “carefully assessing the submitted revised plan”; however, if such careful assessing replicates that corresponding to Mr. Buxadé’s first question, our readers might easily deduct the level of sarcasm which is implied by his statement.

Finally, the VOX politician asked Mr. Gentiloni why he had requested the national People’s Party (and not VOX) to agree with the newly revised RRF plan.  Both before and after the general elections of 23 July 2023, the political party belonging to ECR is the third largest in the country; under this scenario, why would they be left out by Brussels officials?

The Commissioner, for the third time, responds in a largely vague way.  According to him, the RRF Regulation, as amended by REPowerEU, requires that the recovery and resilience plan of respective Member States include a summary of the consultation process carried out for its preparation and implementation.  In its submission, Spain has allegedly provided details on the stakeholders consulted, including targeted consultations with regional and local authorities – including other political groups.

Though this does not explain why Mr. Gentiloni had requested Madrid to meet with the People’s Party and not with VOX.

Indeed, Spain had allegedly involved “all regional and local authorities and stakeholders concerned”, but in its appraisal of the plan, the Commission had still added that “ensuring a broader ownership for implementation would contribute to enhance its effectiveness and expected long-lasting impact”.  Therefore, “all” as proclaimed by the Socialist-communist government did not really mean all, since the Commission was still calling for a broader ownership.

Spanish ECR representatives will continue to require that regions and local authorities, particularly those governed by VOX (which have increased massively in the past months), are important partners for the implementation of reforms and investments.