The long-promised EU funding ‘bazooka’ for post-pandemic recovery has at last been approved.
Says Portugal’s prime minister António Costa, the first tranche of €1.7 billion should be arriving by the beginning of the summer.
“This is a time of economic and social emergency”, he reiterated today after a tough no-nonsense press conference yesterday in which the country learnt lockdown is here for the long-haul – until at least Easter (most likely until Easter has passed).
The ‘Mechanism for Recovery and Resilience’ from which €672.5 billion euros is being divided among 27 Member States was approved this morning by António Costa in his role as the leader of the rotating European presidency, and David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament.
On Twitter after the signing, Mr Sassoli said: “Citizens cannot wait, businesses cannot wait, our countries cannot wait” (for this funding). “The crisis we are facing is too deep”.
The next step is for all national parliaments to ‘speed up and approve’ their own recovery programmes “as soon as possible”, said Mr Sassoli.
PM Costa has promised Portugal will be ready with its plan “within three weeks”.
The plan will then have to be sent to Brussels before any of the funding is approved. This means the next two weeks in parliament will be taken up with discussions. It’s possibly another reason why last night’s speech to the country by President Marcelo insisted that now is ‘not the time for political crises’.
But there are ‘other hurdles’: none of the ‘bazooka funding’ will be released before every Member State has come up with its own national plan.
Stressed Mr Costa: “This is a time of economic and social emergency” and a time of “producing results”.
“We finally have a vaccine to save lives, and a vitamin for the economy”.
There is no time to lose, in other words.
Portugal’s share of the EU’s special mechanism should see the first tranche pay-out in a total of €13.2 billion to be received up to the end of 2026.
Accompanying today’s ‘historic’ signing, European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen added to Mr Costa’s message saying it is “in the interest of all Member States to accelerate the process (of producing national plans) as quickly as possible.
“This is a unique opportunity for Member States to work together”, she said. “It is more than money; it is a very strong message of solidarity and confidence in the European Union”.
In another upbeat message today, the European Commission has said it expects “significant uptake” of tourism this summer (see text to come).