European funds: the first big challenge for the next Government
The race for European funds is already underway. The Generalitat has rushed to present its candidacy with a first list of projects, created by a commission of experts. All the regional governments aspire to place their bets at the forefront of the State's preferences. Their voice will be heard, but the final decision is in the hands of the Spanish government, which has to take its proposal to the European Commission before April 30. In big issues and big moments, centralism always rears its head. The race, in fact, consists of convincing Madrid and Brussels, in that order. It will be one and the other, in first and second instance, who will decide where the money allocated to the Spanish state will go, a maximum of €140bn, between direct aid and loans.
The race is two-fold, because it is both technical and political. In the first area, the projects have to be very well-founded, that is to say, they have to have both economic viability - apart from the European money, a relevant part to carry out each business venture has to come from the private sector and the public sector - and technical solvency, as well as comply with the European strategic lines. Beyond the fact that each project has to adjust as much as possible to the guidelines, which emphasise the green economy and digitalisation, as well as territorial cohesion and gender equality, technical solvency is demonstrated by the rootedness of the business fabric, the specificity of its development, innovative capacity and future projection. The European Commission is looking for a leap in the model towards a new economy that provides added value and is based on knowledge. This is what has been baptised as NextGen (next generation). In the case of the Catalan economy, it is an opportunity to overcome the dependence on low-cost tourism and, in general, on an omnipresent service sector. In other words, to strengthen an industry based on research and health. If we really want to take advantage of this race and come out stronger, it is necessary that all economic agents (companies, employers, trade unions, the world of research and administrations) understand that this is the real thing and that we have to collaborate. The opportunity of European funds will only come once. And given how unemployment has shot up this January and the dramatic figures for youth unemployment, it is vital to get down to work.
The race, however, is also political. And again, in this case, it is imperative to act responsibly and put aside short-sighted partisanship and think and act with collaborative intelligence. We must focus on attracting European funds with the Catalan economy as a whole in mind for the next ten or twenty years, with strategic commitments and maximum consensus. The Government must exercise its leadership by seeking, as it has done in this first step, the support of independent experts and, from here, by working to gather broad political support that will allow it to negotiate with authority in Madrid and to lobby effectively in Brussels. Getting the maximum out of these funds will be the first great challenge for the next government of the Generalitat.