Sant fights southern Italy’s corner in Petitions Committee, calls for fair fund distribution

MEP Alfred Sant has called for a fairer distribution of the EU’s COVID-19 recovery funds for Italy’s more disadvantaged and hard-hit southern regions

Labour MEP Alfred Sant
Labour MEP Alfred Sant

MEP Alfred Sant has called for a fairer distribution of NextGenerationEU funds being allocated to southern Italian regions as part of Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan, after the regions’ past experience when it came to the distribution of European Facility for Strategic Investments (EFSI) funds.

In an intervention in the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee on behalf of S&D, Sant backed a petition tabled by the Rete dei Sindaci del Recovery Sud (Mayors’ network of the Southern Recovery), which is demanding the EU’s institutions to ensure a fair territorial distribution of the funds.

The argument is that, under the EU Treaty, the allocation of EU funds should be prioritised and accorded to the most disadvantaged regions. This, they argue, would help reduce development gaps in the implementation of the overall strategic plan aiming at alleviating the socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Committee on Petitions is a permanent committee of the European Parliament that offers a petition process to citizens themselves, which is one of the fundamental rights of all European citizens and residents, enshrined both in the Treaty and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Sant pointed out how new data shows that economic and social inequalities have persisted, and have in fact grown in the EU over recent years, with peripheral regions having been especially affected.

He highlighted to the Committee how Italy’s southern regions "undoubtedly have a lot of catching up to do in terms of economic and social upgrading, especially when compared to their northern equivalents. The grievances of the southern Italian regions, he observed, are many and well-loaded with a heavy historical baggage.

“It is also comprehensible that southern Italian policymakers are wary of how the disbursement of funds under the Recovery and Resilience Facility will happen. Not least, because of how matters developed under the European Facility for Strategic Investments, even if there the disbursement of funds went through a different mechanism all together.

“In the current framework of requirements adopted under the Regulation establishing the Recovery and Resilience Facility, there are no specific requirements covering how funding should be distributed on a regional basis.”

Sant said it was clear that the same Regulation clearly and repeatedly states that national recovery and resilience plans should contribute to enhancing economic, social and territorial cohesion. Furthermore, he underscored, “Article 22 of the Regulation calls to ensure close cooperation between those responsible for its implementation at Union, national and, where appropriate, regional levels to achieve the objectives of the established instruments.”

As such, Sant asked the Committee Chair to keep the Petition open for a deeper analysis of the situation, and possibly for the Committee to send a letter to the European Commission requesting further information on the issue.

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