"Cafè Europa" - European Next Generation funds and the Catalan economy: priorities and unknowns

The economist Miquel Puig, coordinator of the Catalonia-Next Generation EU Advisory Committee, has been the guest speaker at the second session of the Café Europa dedicated to the Next Generation European Funds and the Catalan economy. Cafè Europa is a series of conferences organized by the Catalunya Europa Foundation together with the Horitzó Europa association. The session also had the participation of Marta Angerri, consultant and President of the 2030 Agenda Commission of "Foment del Treball". 

Puig explained that the Spanish Government plans to request the 73,000 million non-returnable funds and, for the moment, refuses to collect funds subject to credit. A money that "double the income of the amount that the Marshall Plan injected, only in this legislature."

The European Union has made these grants conditional on the fulfillment of the Next Generation objectives, which can be summed up with the achievement of a "more digital and ecological" Europe and a "more sustainable and resilient" economy. Spain has also added two additional milestones, gender equality and social and territorial cohesion.

The economist considers that these funds are extraordinary for three reasons, firstly, because of the volume they represent, secondly, because of the fact that it is the first time that the EU has gone into debt and, because finally the Union breaks the taboo of the investment of public funds in the industrial sector. Although the pandemic has created the necessary conditions for the agreement of the 27, the truth is that the Next Generation funds were already in the making since before Covidien-19, when France and Germany began to negotiate an agreement to finance European industry and favor it against to the growth of economic giants like China.

According to Puig, one of the main questions to answer is whether the Spanish government will be able to award the € 73 billion. Be that as it may, communities and local authorities will also play an important role in its adjudication and the central government has already announced that they will be in charge of managing half the budget.

Despite these difficulties, Marta Angerri is not in favor of the creation of ad hoc European funds management bodies and insists on taking advantage of existing resources to award Next Generation funds.

In Catalonia, the Generalitat has presented 27 priority areas for awarding money from European funds. Still, these are very general and projects must be finalized. For Puig, some of the exemplary projects in Catalonia are the transformation of the automobile industry into the manufacture of electric vehicles, the research on green hydrogen (an underdeveloped industry, but which is part of the EU's priorities) or the transformation of the agri-food industry to make it more sustainable. Currently, says Puig, a thousand projects have been presented in Catalonia alone, which they must analyze and evaluate to determine which of them are more in line with the objectives to which Next Generation funds are subject.