On 11 November 2021, Spain submitted to the Commission a request for the disbursement of €10 billion under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The request was based on the achievement of the 52 milestones, as outlined in the Council Implementing Decision, for the first instalment. They cover several reforms in the areas of sustainable mobility, energy efficiency, decarbonisation, connectivity, public administration, skills, education and social, labour and fiscal policy, as well as Spain’s audit and control system for the RRF implementation. In line with the RRF Regulation, the Commission had up to two months to carry out its preliminary assessment of the request. However, given that most of the milestones linked to this first payment request had already been achieved by the end of the second quarter of this year, the Commission was able to conclude its assessment more swiftly.
With their request, the Spanish authorities provided detailed and comprehensive evidence demonstrating the fulfilment of the 52 milestones included in the Council Implementing Decision assessing the Recovery and Resilience Plan of Spain. The Commission has thoroughly assessed this information before presenting its positive preliminary assessment of the payment request. This will be followed up by detailed discussions with the Member States in the Economic and Financial Committee (EFC) and comitology committee.
The submission of the first payment request by Spain followed a period of close cooperation between the Spanish authorities and the Commission on the preparation of the evidence to demonstrate the satisfactory fulfilment of the milestones included in the payment request.
What are the next steps?
The Commission has now sent its positive preliminary assessment of Spain’s fulfilment of the milestones required for this payment to the Economic and Financial Committee (EFC), asking for its opinion. The EFC’s opinion, to be delivered within maximum four weeks, should be taken into account in the Commission’s assessment. The Commission will adopt the final decision on the disbursement of the financial contribution, in accordance with the examination procedure, through a comitology committee. Following the adoption of the decision by the Commission, the disbursement to Spain would take place. The disbursement would subsequently take place following the adoption of the decision by the Commission. The amounts disbursed to the Member States will be published in the Recovery and Resilience Scoreboard.
Why did the Commission not need the full two months envisaged in the Regulation to complete its preliminary assessment?
The positive preliminary assessment of the first payment request by Spain is the result of a thorough evaluation and close cooperation between the Spanish authorities and the Commission. Spain had shared with the Commission most of the information required to conduct the assessment many weeks prior to submitting the formal request. The Commission was therefore able to conduct its assessment in parallel with the negotiation of the operational arrangements.
Furthermore, the milestones related to this first payment request were largely backward looking, with most already achieved by the end of the second quarter of this year. In addition, no targets linked to investments were part of this payment request.
How do the milestones achieved by Spain so far effectively support the green transition?
The achieved milestones include an ambitious law on climate change and energy transition, enshrining the renewable energy targets for 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050, including a 100% renewable electricity system by 2050. They also include the approval of strategic documents that will guide further reforms and investments to foster energy efficiency, as well as waste management and the circular economy: the Long-Term Renovation Strategy for Energy Rehabilitation in the Building Sector, the National Strategy for Green Infrastructure, Connectivity and Ecological Restoration and the Spanish Strategy on Circular Economy. Furthermore, the adoption of the law regulating long-term auctions for renewable facilities and the Hydrogen Roadmap will support clean energy sources.
How do the milestones achieved by Spain so far effectively contribute to the digital transition?
A number of the milestones achieved for this payment contribute to supporting the digital transition and will pave the way to an improved level of digital skills of the population, the digital transformation of businesses and digitalisation of the public administration. The milestones reached include the approval of strategic documents that will guide reforms for digital transformation, such as the 2025 Digital Spain Plan, Strategy for the promotion of 5G technology and the National Digital Competences Plan.
How do the milestones achieved by Spain so far contribute to improving Spain’s economic and social situation, and its resilience?
The Spanish labour market has suffered from high structural unemployment and from very high levels of temporality already before the pandemic. While employment is slowly regaining its pre-pandemic levels, a number of reforms of the labour market included under the achieved milestones will contribute to supporting quality employment. These include the action plan to tackle youth unemployment and the royal-decree laws on teleworking. They also include measures to prevent and correct the abuse of the reliance on temporary employment in public administration, as well as to reduce the gender gap and to ensure equal pay transparency. Finally, measures to streamline maternity add-ons seek to compensate parents – primarily mothers – for the costs relating to birth and childcare, in order to reduce the gender pension gap.
Skills mismatches are also a structural challenge in Spain. The National Digital Competences Plan and the Plan of the Modernisation of Vocational Training will contribute to raising the share of students in science and digital technologies, making vocational education and training more attractive and ensuring flexible upskilling and reskilling opportunities.
The reform of the minimum income aims at preventing and fighting poverty and social exclusion, and improving the support provided to families with children.
Finally, a significant number of milestones achieved – such as the introduction of taxes on financial transactions and digital services, the appointment of the Committee of experts for tax reform or the set-up of a permanent team in the Ministry of Finance for the active monitoring of the implementation of the results of the spending reviews – will reinforce the economic resilience of the country in the medium term.
Does the achievement of these first milestones contribute to an effective implementation of the Plan?
One of the milestones achieved captures the organisational changes in the central government which aim to foster a lasting improvement in performance-based planning and control in the administration, through the experience in managing the Recovery and Resilience Plan. Two other milestones relate to the arrangements for control and audit, and more generally to the protection of the financial interests of the Union. They include the entry into force of the framework defining the procedures for monitoring the RRP, the format of the information to be shared, as well as the implementation of an IT system that allows for the collection of necessary data for monitoring, controls and audits.
Why did Spain present these 52 milestones for its first payment request?
The milestones and targets to be included in each of the payment requests are set out in the Council Implementing Decision approving the relevant national Recovery and Resilience Plan. In the case of Spain, this Decision provides for the first instalment of the 52 milestones that Spain has now achieved. While the Member States can decide when to submit a payment request for each instalment, they cannot unilaterally amend the number and identity of the milestones in each instalment.
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- Arianna PODESTA, photo Bygigis.com