Brussels approves Next Generation fund payment to Generalitat for €893m
The money will be invested in improvements to the health system and public service infrastructures
BarcelonaThe Generalitat de Catalunya will soon receive €893.3m from NextGeneration EU, the European Union's €750bn programme aimed at promoting the recovery of the bloc's economy after the pandemic. Thus, 13 months after the approval of the funds, Brussels will make the first direct payment to the Government - without going through the State - which will allocate the money to the adaptation and improvement of the health system to cope with covid-19 investments in digital infrastructure and public transport and sustainable mobility, and the conversion and construction of public service buildings, such as schools or hospitals, to make them more efficient, the Catalan Department of Economy has reported.
The €893.3m are part of the so-called React-EU axis, one of the branches of the NextGeneration programme. React-EU is financed through two existing funds managed by the European Commission, the Feder regional fund and the European Social Fund (ESF), from which European regions usually request aid to promote various projects.
With the approval of the programme, Catalonia had to reprogramme its Feder funds this year in order to include in the extra funds, a reprogramming that this Monday got the go-ahead from Brussels, which consists in €1bn to be received between 2021 and 2023. In addition, the Commission also gave the green light to advancing a lump sum consisting of 87% of this amount, which are the €893.3m announced Friday.
In addition to the €1bn from the Feder, the Generalitat is also expected to receive over the next three years €683m more through the ESF, which brings the total figure from the React-EU to 1,706 million.
The React-EU axis is part of the Next Generation programme, but it is not part of the so-called resilience mechanism through which the bulk of the money is managed and which is linked to the national plans submitted by member state governments to the European Commission, which reviews and approves them. In the case of this mechanism, regional administrations such as the Generalitat cannot ask Brussels directly for money, but have to negotiate with the state executive - which receives the money from the EU - through sectorial tables.
In fact, the Generalitat has already received €122m in NextGeneration funds through the resilience mechanism, according to sources from the Department of Economy, distributed to several minor projects.
Investments in health and mobility
The €1bn from the Feder that have been approved by the Commission will have to be spent on projects in accordance with the NextGeneration EU plan's goals. Thus, according to the Government, €426.7m will go to "support investments in infrastructures that provide basic services to citizens". These investments will be the construction, rehabilitation or expansion of schools and, in the field of health, the construction of "multipurpose and flexible infrastructure" that can be adapted to different uses depending on the situation, which will involve the reform and expansion of public hospitals and health centres, in addition to "the creation of a prototherapy unit [proton radiotherapy] and the acquisition of a synchrotron to carry out nuclear medicine".
Another item, for €305.6m, will be allocated to health projects to combat covid-19. Specifically, to "actions aimed at strengthening the care" for patients suffering from covid-19, the supply of PCR, the coordination of intensive care units, vaccination logistics, managing medical supply stocks and the deployment of a laundry system adapted to the context of the epidemic.
Thirdly, the Generalitat plans to invest €200m in "the transition to a digital economy" in order to "improve connectivity linked to public services" and businesses. The aim is to "guarantee a point of presence of fibre optic network" in towns and villages in order to "other projects to connect areas of economic activity". In addition, part of the money will go to projects to streamline citizens' procedures with the administration through online channels.
Another item will be €75m towards "actions aimed at public transport" to expand and digitise Barcelona's metro network and adapt it to people with reduced mobility, in addition to "the construction of cycle paths to promote the intermodality of this vehicle as a means of public transport". Finally, €16.1m will be allocated to technical assistance.