Minister for Territorial Planning Ana Abrunhosa has said measures will be taken to ensure no municipality loses out due to an outdated PDM, but so far nothing further has been explained. Photo: João Bica/portugal.gov.pt

Almost half Portugal’s municipalities risk ‘losing’ EU bazooka

Funding dependant on up-to-date municipal plans

Almost half Portugal’s mainland municipalities risk losing access to the endlessly-trumpeted EU ‘bazooka’ of recovery and resilience funding because their PDMs (development plans) are ‘out of date’.

Tabloid Correio da Manhã has broken this news explaining EU ‘rules’ on handing out the billions of euros promised for the best part of two years preclude any municipality qualifying if their PDM is over 10 years old.

The limit sees 47% of mainland town councils instantly on the back foot.

Making matters worse, the time limit for updating PDMs passed on March 31 this year.

Admittedly Ana Abrunhosa, the minister in charge of Territorial Cohesion “guaranteed” in parliament last month that she would be “taking measures to ensure no municipality with an out-of-date PDM would be prejudiced” – but up till now there has not been any concrete sign of how she, or the wider government, means to achieve this.

CM claims to have found no “procedure underway for extending time limits”, which in cases like Sines, and Almerim (Santarém district) would need to be stretched threefold.

What does this all mean? Well, the issue of Brussels’ PRR funding is that it has to be ‘used’ within a strict time-frame (by 2026). We are now in the middle of 2022, leaving just four years for quite substantial obstacles to be dealt with even before municipalities have presented their candidacies for the funding. It will be another ‘race against time’ while various instruments are in place to ensure none of the EU’s funds are allowed to go astray.

Luís Gomes, Algarve MP, former mayor of Vila Real de Santo António and specialist in territorial planning has told CM: “With the current PDMs, incapable of incorporating plans envisaged within the PRR, it will be very difficult to realise public policies for territorial development”.

AGE OF PORTUGAL’S PDMs

This is the fascinating part: 73 councils have PDMs that have been in place for 25 years, or slightly more. The Algarve, for instance, has 16 municipalities, of which no less than 12 (VRSA, Castro Marim, Alcoutim, Olhão, Faro, São Brás de Alportel, Loulé, Albufeira, Portimão, Monchique, Aljezur and Vila do Bispo) have PDMs dating back 25 years or more.

The rest of the country sees these ‘pensioner PDMs’ in the Alentejo, some scattered around Lisbon, blocks in the central region and east (near the Spanish border), with even a few in the north.

Then there are 20 councils with PDMs dating back 15-24 years. The Algarve has one of those, too (Tavira) – and finally there are 39 municipalities with PDMs that are between 10-14 years old.

In total, 132 of the mainland’s 278 borough councils have no easy way to access PRR funding according to rules in place – and there’s more where this comes from:

PORTUGAL “BEHIND WHEN IT COMES TO CONDITIONS FOR PT 2030”

Observador today reports that Portugal is “in delay in qualifying conditions for PT 2030″, another European programme for strategic development which actually promises even more than the long-awaited bazooka – a total of €23 billion, on the basis that projects put forwards are fully compliant with all conditions, and given Brussels’ green-light.

As Observador outlines, the very PT 2030 agreement “has still not been signed. Nine of 20 qualifying conditions are delayed. Non-compliance does not compromise signing, but it could prejudice execution” – and if execution is ‘prejudiced’, time limits could be exceeded – and funding could be lost.

The government’s mantra, unsurprisingly, is that all this will be ironed out in time. Nonetheless one of the ‘conditions’ for qualifying that hasn’t been met is the hot potato of “good money management, to avoid frauds or the siphoning of funds”.

Fraud and the siphoning of EU funds have been issues in Portugal since it joined the union. Hardly a month goes by without news of yet another investigation into alleged financial mismanagement. Thus, the gilded future of plenty outlined by prime minister Costa during his re-election campaign is not looking quite so clear-cut as he when presented it in the New Year – weeks before new uncertainties started clouding the wider European picture.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com