Restarting European economies in the aftermath of Covid-19 on a more sustainable basis through the newly launched EU-wide recovery fund is the next step in addressing the repercussions of the health crisis, the European Commission said last week whilst presenting its 2021 Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy (ASGS).

The new ASGS includes a set of goals to be met with the 672.5 billion euros from the COVID-19 recovery package. As part of its NextGenerationEU initiative, the funds are aimed at helping the EU emerge stronger and more resilient from the current crisis through investments and reforms in seven flagship areas focused on environmental sustainability, productivity, fairness, and macroeconomic stability. More specifically, Member States can tap into the funds provided they submit draft plans outlining national investment and reform agendas in line with the aforementioned criteria.

EU Member States should submit final plans by 30 April 2021 and are encouraged to submit preliminary draft plans as of 15 October 2020. Plans should also focus on economic growth, job creation and economic and social resilience, as well as to meet the green and digital transitions. Under its current guidance for proposals, the Commission encourages Member States to include in their plans investment and reforms in the following areas:

  1. Future-proof clean technologies and acceleration of the development and use of renewables,
  2. The improvement of energy efficiency of public and private buildings,
  3. The promotion of future-proof clean technologies to accelerate the use of sustainable, accessible, and smart transport, charging and refuelling stations and extension of public transport,
  4. The fast rollout of rapid broadband services to all regions and households, including fibre and 5G networks,
  5. The digitalisation of public administration and services, including judicial and healthcare systems,
  6. The increase in European industrial data cloud capacities and the development of the most powerful, cutting edge, and sustainable processors,
  7. The adaptation of education systems to support digital skills and educational and vocational training for all ages.

The Commission is urging the European Parliament and the Council to approve the aid facility so that it goes into effect on 1 January 2021. This publication is extremely important for CEEP members as there are new possibilities for funding projects and plans to support Public services and SGIs across Europe. Furthermore, the Commission encourages Member States to engage as soon as possible in a broad policy dialogue including all relevant stakeholders to prepare their recovery and resilience plans.

Public services and services of general interest are key in fostering the resilience of our social and economic systems and will be the supporting force for our recovery. Putting forward flagship initiatives along the lines of the conditions specified in the Guidance and template provided by the Commission presents a unique opportunity for providers of public services and SGIs to increase their resilience, and reinforce the EU social-economic model.

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