29/01/2021

We are not yet done with the European funds

2 min
The deputy of Unidas Podemos, Txema Guijarro; the spokesman of Esquerra Republicana in Congress, Gabriel Rufián; and the deputy of EH Bildu, Jon Iñarritu, talk during a plenary session held in the Congress of Deputies

BarcelonaIn case anyone was not yet sure: the management of European funds - their distribution, the speed of the procedures, the sectors that benefit, the monitoring of the projects, etc. - will be crucial to get us out of the crisis. The Catalan economy has been severely affected by the pandemic and this time, unlike the crisis of the previous decade, when everything revolved around social cuts, Europe has responded with a Keynesian approach, that is, with the injection of direct aid and credits instead of compulsory austerity.

This is all very well and there is a broad consensus. Now, however, we are dealing with how it will be done, and things are no longer so clear. Spain has been allocated €140bn that it will have to spend in three years. How will it do it? At this point, the Spanish tendency is once again the same as always, with the danger of opacity, centralised management and favouring large companies. And therefore with the risk, in the case of Catalonia, that its diverse fabric of small and medium-sized businesses will be left in the background, as will the self-employed. For this reason the decree regulating the implementation of European funds promoted by the executive of Pedro Sánchez and approved in Congress on Thursday thanks, among others, to the surprising abstention of Vox - without which it would not have prospered -, has not had the support of the Catalan groups of ERC, JxCat, the PDECat and the CUP. The PP and Cs also voted against it, but for different reasons - more in the vein of pure, hard political opposition. In the case of the pro-independence parties, the justified concern is the little capacity of intervention and decision that the Generalitat will have in the choice of business projects. The Catalan electoral context has not helped to find negotiation paths either, of course. The Basque parties have fared better, and in the absence of the Catalans they have come to the rescue of the Spanish government. The favourable vote of both the PNV and EH Bildu will surely bring concrete and tangible benefits for their business world.

In Italy, another of the countries benefiting from European funds, Conte's government has fallen precisely because of the lack of parliamentary support on this decisive point. It is, we insist, an issue as important as the management of the pandemic. Now, for the moment, beyond the PSC and Podemos, Catalan influence is diminished. But there is still room to correct things during the processing of the decree as a bill. We will have to go back. In fact, from the left wing of the government bloc in Congress there is an awareness of the bias in favour of big business. The relaxation of administrative and environmental controls is, as the decree now stands, a worrying black hole. And certainly the secondary role reserved for regions does not bode well, and arouses the suspicion that this may be in some way connected to Vox's unprecedented bout of responsibility. In any case, there is still a way to go and we will have to see it through. There is a lot at stake. We are playing for multi-million euro stakes on which the Catalan economic future will depend.