The search for projects to present to the European Union and raise EU funds from the Next Generation reactivation mechanism has become one of the Government’s last priorities before the elections. The different departments analyze 400 possible projects to receive community resources. But the priority is to define twenty of them, those with the greatest capacity for transformation, so that they can be included in the first draft sent by the central government to Brussels. The Catalan government expects to have them in three weeks.
The Generalitat wants to have the largest projects defined before the Christmas period, so that Spain can include them in its first batch of projects sent to the European Union. In this package will be the projects with the greatest potential for transformation of the Catalan economy and, at the same time, those that require more volume of investment. It has already been decided, for example, that the Generalitat’s list includes the Barcelona Supercomputing Center’s plan to be able to design chips that will allow Europe to compete with the current American and Asian offer. And also a project for housing rehabilitation that contributes to overcoming the current housing crisis and territorial rebalancing and another for the agri-food industry.
The Generalitat is not enthusiastic about the idea of including infrastructure projects in this first package, considering that it does not activate either the private initiative or the economic transformation required by the European Union, but will introduce some and may be linked in the Mediterranean corridor and in the movement of goods by rail. It is doubtful whether Spain, and Catalonia, will be able to present enough projects to raise the 70 billion in non-refundable funds that could arrive in the next three years. The central government, for the time being, does not want to use the other 70 billion that could come from the European Union in the form of credits.
The difficulty of this first round is complex not only by the definition of which are the first projects, but by how it is defined who leads them: a public or private operator? These are what the central government has called Perte: “Strategic projects with great drag capacity for economic growth, employment and the competitiveness of the Spanish economy, which require public-private collaboration,” according to the define the royal decree approved by the Executive. Such proposals will benefit from a faster process for receiving funding, but will first have to be approved by the Council of Ministers. The central government plans to present them in Brussels in January.
In addition to the projects submitted directly by the Generalitat, there will be other projects that large corporations can submit on their own. It is taken for granted, for example, that Seat will make a proposal around the electric vehicle that will add other Volkswagen Group factories to the European Union – the president of the German consortium, Herbert Diess, met last week with Pedro Sánchez. The listed Cellnex or Grifols are also candidates to submit to receive European funds.
The other candidates for community resources will go through the call, without it being known at the moment how they will be articulated. “We want to have the projects defined in the face of the uncertainty of a state that gives us very little information. The sectorial conference has not yet been convened ”, complains Lluís Juncà, Director General of Economic Promotion, Competition and Regulation and coordinator of the Catalan Government for everything related to Next Generation funds. “We have received most of the proposals and we are identifying which ones can be added to them and include private initiative or determining who ends up leading them,” he notes. The aim is to reduce the number of projects that go to the call, avoid duplication and, above all, make them more ambitious. Although this desire may end up being a burden on the interests of SMEs, which have already shown their fear that the funds will reach large companies and, instead, do not end up touching the small company that also wants to apply. .
The other big question is whether the Administration will be able to digest the large volume of resources that the European Union presents to tender. The Generalitat has indicated that it aspires for Catalonia to receive 30 billion euros, an amount that is similar to that of its entire annual budget. And Spain — and the autonomous communities — is not a good example of the capacity to manage community resources. In 2019 it had barely been able to show that 35% of the resources requested from the European Union had been spent in the previous seven years, which cast doubt on whether EU funds could reach Spain.
In addition to creating a committee of notables to evaluate the projects that can best marry the Perte proposed by the central government, the Generalitat activated an interdepartmental group two weeks ago to try to detect administrative bottlenecks that could pose a problem for the future reception of community funds, which should have already arrived last week. The pre-election atmosphere and the February elections may also hamper this management.
For now, the Next Generation has become a topic of debate and gimmicky in the negotiation of this year’s General Budgets. ERC and the PSOE negotiate, for example, the prominence that the Catalan Government and other autonomies may have in this management and, even, the possibility that large projects presented by Catalonia can be incorporated into the fast track of projects in which it works the Moncloa. For next year 34 billion will already be allocated in the Budgets and there is the commitment of Pedro Sánchez that the communities directly manage 54% of the resources.
The employer Foment del Treball has presented this week a list of potential infrastructures that it considers are in line with the objectives of the recovery mechanism articulated by the European Union, despite the will expressed by the Generalitat not to base its demand on projects of public works. The business organization includes many of the projects that in recent years have slept the sleep of the righteous, although their development is more than consolidated after lustrums and even a few decades of approaches. It includes the improvement of the Rodalies de Barcelona network and the construction of the new line between Castelldefels, Cornellà and Barcelona for the University Area, La Sagrera station, the completion of lines 9 and 10 of the metro or a new tunnel under Collserola to expand the capacity of the Vallès dels Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat lines. Its proposal also takes into account new road connections and health and educational facilities.