Graduated in Law from the University of Oviedo, her job consists of identifying those projects that are “really strategic” and that help the region to take off after blows such as the “express decarbonization” ordered by Madrid. In the following lines, Raquel García reviews these initiatives at the head of this office.
A new organism.
The European Projects Office arises from the need to manage this avalanche of business plans in order to capture the flood of European funds. García explains that “it was decided to start up the office at the end of last year, due to the casuistry generated by the pandemic. There was always a budgetary framework of European funds, but with the pandemic an extraordinary financial package is approved, in response to the Covid-19 crisis, made up of 750,000 million, which compared to the thousand that have usually been, is a tremendous challenge both at the level of priorities and execution. Our goal is to channel all ideas and initiatives that are likely to be financed. Because in this case the capacity to absorb funds by a territory will be proportional to the capacity it has to mobilize projects. There is a paradigm shift. Now, the allocation of funds will be based on projects with the capacity to be transformative and to generate a productive fabric, and also to create regions that are resilient and adapted to what is to come ”.
The priorities of Asturias.
One of the jobs of the office is to define the priorities of Asturias. Select the projects to bet on. “The priorities are, in general terms, set by Europe. They are the double economic and digital transition, territorial cohesion and gender equality as four basic pillars. And the jewel in the crown within the ‘next generation’ (the specific funds of the EU to lift the economy) would be the 30 components set by Spain in the so-called ‘Spain Can‘. The presentation of this document in Brussels is a necessary condition for the country to receive funds linked to the recovery mechanism. We play within a framework of strategies that is predetermined for us and we have to be able to find our bets within it. Projects in which public-private collaboration is articulated will be awarded, and the identification of these projects requires very fluid communication between the public and private sectors, ”he explains.
The money that can reach Asturias.
Although these funds will put the different European territories to compete with each other, there are those who have already set their accounts. According to García, “for Asturias what has always been worked with is 2% of the total, which is what is balanced based on GDP and employment, but this criterion, in this case, is not applied. The criteria used for territorial pre-allocation are different. Even so, from what we are seeing in the sector conferences, more or less, on average we could also be talking about that 2%. But, I insist, we will be able to attract as much money as projects we are able to mobilize ”.
What projects the companies have already submitted.
“The ‘inputs’ that we are receiving from potential proponents (by companies) only endorse what we had previously identified. We are observing quite dynamic activity in matters of renewable energies, energy storage, circular economy, digitization and data economy. These are strategic issues that were already guessed, and this confirms this first approach. There are very interesting projects that have a great traction capacity and function as a value chain that are already being analyzed ” , says García. “On February 8 we launched a form through the web to collect in a systematic way all the information of the projects that are in the portfolio and it has been very well accepted. The dynamism of the office is more than evident “, Add.
Number of projects.
Enrique Fernández, Minister of Industry, recently assured that Asturias had already identified 115 projects with the capacity to attract these European funds. García points out: “Many are projects that had already reached the Ministry and that would fit within the financial lines or instruments of the Government. There is all a previous work that has already been developed in the compilation of projects, but that number is not evaluated by this office with that strategic purpose that I commented previously ”.
Risk of big companies taking over everything.
In recent days, the debate has arisen that large companies could monopolize all the aid, but García assures that there are already measures to prevent that from happening. “In the General State Budgets there is already a provision for the aid to reach SMEs. Large companies are the ones that have this ability to pull, and when that happens it ends up benefiting small companies as well. There will be a specific line for tractor projects in SMEs that ENISA (National Innovation Company) will manage ”. What happens in Asturias? How is that cast being? “There is a bit of everything, we have projects for SMEs and large companies. But we must bear in mind that the formation of the Asturian business fabric is what it is. Many of the projects we receive are necessarily from SMEs. There are very interesting large company projects. We do not make them public because we are in the phase of work and definition, but they are beginning to disseminate them. There are issues that have great potential to develop new investment poles, now we are analyzing them all ”.
The deadlines for the money to arrive.
There were critical voices with the Principality for its delay in revealing how many projects it already has on the table. García ensures that these funds will not be late. “The times are marked for us by Europe. The states have until the end of April to present the plans to Brussels and then a period of two months is opened to approve them, there is no reason to think that we will be late for the funds. The times with which we work here are in step with those that Brussels is setting us ”. García assures that a first selection of projects will be made at the end of this month. “The purpose of putting that first evaluation on February 28 does not respond to a strict cut, they will be able to continue sending and evaluating projects after that day. It is a strategy accompanied by that April date (when the initiatives have to be sent to Europe). Now we are at the moment of identifying projects with a driving and transforming capacity in the region. The date is set at February 28 for an operational and internal work issue, without further ado ”.
Expectations of funds.
The Minister of Industry called days ago to lower the expectations placed on these funds. Garcia is of the same opinion. “There is a general thought that money will arrive for everything in percentages never seen before. And it is true that the fund is a historical endowment, especially what comes to Spain. However, a large part of these funds are designed to carry out reforms in the public sector, there is a large social component that is not going to revert directly to aid for companies. But there is no doubt that it is a very large window of opportunity ”.