COVID resilience fund key to gain energy independence from Russia – MEP

MEPs discuss Recovery and Resilience Fund with Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa

Portuguese PM Antonio Costa meets with European Parliament president Roberta Metsola, 16 March 2022
Portuguese PM Antonio Costa meets with European Parliament president Roberta Metsola, 16 March 2022

MEPs from the budget and economic and monetary affairs committees shared their thoughts on the Recovery and Resilience Fund with Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa, in a special stakeholders meeting.

The Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is the centerpiece of the €750 billion Next Generation EU recovery package designed to help EU countries tackle the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With its €723.8 billion in loans and grants, the RRF will support long-term reforms around six pillars: green transition; digital transformation; economic cohesion, productivity and competitiveness; social and territorial cohesion; health, economic, social and institutional resilience; policies for the next generation.

EU Member states have to develop reform plans around these six pillars.

As of February 2022, all member states but one have submitted their National Recovery and Resilience plans (NRRPs) requesting in total  €337.5 billion in grants and €166 billion in loans. 22 plans have been approved to date and funds are beginning to flow to finance projects and actions on the ground.

Co-rapporteur Siegfried Mureșan is set to present the first assessment report on the RRF since its debut in 2021 later this year in June.

“When we created the RRF we chose this to be an instrument to help people, enterprises and regions affected by the covid crisis, but deliberately we designed it as an instrument to help improve the resilience of member states, of the regions, of the public sector and the economy.” 

Mureșan said Europe can be stronger and better able to handle the next crisis thanks to lessons learnt from the RRF. “We have to work on our vulnerabilities, strengthen our economy, make them more competitive and not create new vulnerabilities,” the MEP said.

“The truth is we have been talking about reducing energy dependence from Russia since 2005, but if I am looking at the map of  Europe today, there’s more gas connections between the Russian Federation and the European Union,” Mureșan said in frank terms to MEPs and Costa. “Becoming energy independent was an area where the RRF could help.”

Mureșan said Europe had enough wind, sun, and water in Europe to move successfully to renewables, coupled with nuclear-power member states. “We should clearly aim for an energy mix where we are less dependent of foreign countries, better connected between ourselves.”

“The right move is to do new things that will benefit our economy: we need to be cleaner, greener, less dependent and more digital. There needs to be added value for the whole Union, not just where projects are happening.”

Antonio Costa described how the RRF had been crucial during the pandemic to retain jobs, currency stability and the liquidity of firms. “We mobilized our own resources at an unprecedented level to support European recovery. Now with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the spike in energy prices, the breakdown of many supply chains, these will have consequences for all our economies.”

Johan Van Overtveldt (ECR), chair of the budgetary committee, said that improving the economic, social and institutional resilience to increase crisis preparedness and crisis response capacity in the context of the pandemic and events unfolding in Ukraine was absolutely crucial.

“The economic challenges ahead of us are numerous, from high rising inflation to supply chain difficulties, so it is really important to use the EU budget and the recovery tools as efficiently as possible,” Van Overtveldt said.

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