Our Plan to spend EU Structural Funds better

18 May 2021

"The political, administrative and managerial commitment we are called to fulfill to ensure efficient and effective use of EU resources in the coming years can and must be significantly higher than in the past." Mara Carfagna, Minister for Southern Italy and Territorial Cohesion, declared it during her hearing before the 14th Permanent Commission (European Union Policies) of the Senate, with regard to the capacity to spend ESI Funds and attain the related objectives.

In reporting 2014-2020 data, Minister Carfagna highlighted that at 28 February 2021 the approved commitments for ROPs and NOPs accounted for EUR 39.1 billion, namely 77.4% of the total (EUR 50.5 billion), while the percentage of payments was 47.2% (EUR 23.8 billion), certified resources amounting to 21.8 billion (43% of the total). Hence between now and 2023 (2014-2020 funds need be spent by 2023) EUR 28.7 billion resources are yet to be invested and reported, which will otherwise be decommitted. All this while also implementing the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (Italy’s PNRR).

"Can we, as a Country, be satisfied with these figures?" Carfagna asked. "We can hardly say yes". For this reason, she announced her intention to "strengthen the role played by the Territorial Cohesion Agency, making it an increasingly sound instrument that provides concrete and constant assistance and, whereby necessary, deputises for local administrations within cohesion policy implementation. We are working to restore the originally intended role entrusted to the Territorial Cohesion Agency, namely acting as the 'operational arm' of the Minister and the Department for Cohesion. Alongside strengthening the Agency's powers, Minister Carfagna highlighted the need to enhance public administration capacity, notably in Southern Italy, in the project-designing and implementation phases of interventions, and recalled the first action undertaken in this regard with the procedure for recruitment of 2,800 new technicians, currently underway.

An effort will thus be made to strengthen the spending capacity in view of the new 2021-2027 cycle of ESI Funds. Furthermore, "The new programming will necessarily introduce substantial corrections to prevent resources earmarked for reducing territorial disparities from newly being endlessly 'parked' in complementary programmes without any action being undertaken.” The so-called reprogramming of funds, aimed at using unspent resources in extremis, "may be a solution to solve immediate problems, but in fact confirms the difficulties and inability of ex-ante programming to be turned into concrete implementation." Hence the need for administrations to enhance their capacity to "focus on feasible interventions that can effectively be implemented by economic operators or local authorities and prove functional to growth and development."

Carfagna explained the resources available for the 2021-2027 programming period amount to around EUR 83 billion, including co-financing: a much higher figure than in the previous cycle. The Minister for Southern Italy and Territorial Cohesion announced "It is our task to notify the Commission of the Partnership Agreement immediately after the publication of EU regulations, in order to gain precious time and favour faster implementation of national and regional programmes."

With regard to the latter, Carfagna explained the number of NOPs will be reduced from 13 to 10, in line with Brussels' requests for streamlining. A new PON (on Health) will be included.

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