The Vice President of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis receives LA RAZÓN and other international media on the so-called noble floor of the Berlaymont building, headquarters of the European Commission, just after the Community Executive publishes its spring recommendations in which it asks our country the containment of spending with a view to 2024, when the fiscal rules will be reactivated.
In its recommendations for Spain, the Commission calls for the phasing out of energy support measures this year. In its plan sent to Brussels, Spain does not give details about when this will take place. Is the European Commission concerned about this lack of specificity?
Regarding the withdrawal of support measures for energy prices, it is a horizontal recommendation that covers almost all European countries, so our recommendation for Spain is to gradually reduce support measures during this year and use these savings to reduce the public deficit. If the rise in bills returns, it will be possible to implement support measures, but in this case it is necessary that they be appropriately limited to the most vulnerable families and companies, as a way of preserving incentives to save energy.
But what is the margin? Should aid be withdrawn now, in a few months…?
Normally our recommendation is to withdraw energy aid throughout this year, but we do not give a specific date for each measure. In essence, we indicate a general direction of travel.
Next year the escape clause of the Stability and Growth Pact ends and the Commission will once again expedite countries that exceed 3%. How many countries will open an infringement procedure? Are you concerned about any country in particular?
What we have already said in our tax guide for the Member States for the month of March and that we confirm now is that we are going to launch tax infringement procedures in the spring of 2024 with the data available from 2023, but about how many countries can this be filed? it will also be determined by the results of 2023, but also by the budget plans sent for 2024. In the event that the countries are above, but close to, 3% of the public deficit and this is temporary, this may serve to avoid opening a procedure of infringement. That is why I cannot say specifically how many countries will suffer from infringement proceedings, but it will be several countries.
Excuse me for insisting. Do you have any particular concern?
Excuse me, but we don’t want to make any pre-announcements because the European countries are still putting this year’s budget plans into action and they have to prepare the budgets for next year and that will influence our decisions.
What are the European Commission’s calculations on the global figures for the disbursement of post-pandemic funds?
First of all, this year, if all goes according to plan, is going to be the peak of the start-up and disbursement of the Recovery and Resilience funds and by the end of the year more than half of the objectives and targets should have been been launched by the European countries and more than half of the funds have been paid. Of course, the implementation is in the hands of the European States and we see that in some cases some delays or risks of delays have started and that is why we are paying so much attention to the implementation of the plans in our European Semester recommendations. If everything continues as it should, we will speed up the start-up and the deliveries of the European funds without delays.
So half of the European funds are going to be paid during this year.
Yes, later this year. This year will be the peak arrival of the funds if the dates of the Recovery and Resilience plans that have been agreed with the countries are respected and if they implement the agreed reforms.
What if it’s not possible?
I think you have to make sure that the plans are implemented properly because the aid expires at the end of 2026 and extending this date beyond would require the unanimity of all European capitals, which in many cases requires completing the respective procedures. national parliamentarians, something that would be very difficult. For this reason, the message to the European countries is to focus on the implementation of the funds and not count on an extension of this date.
Some European countries have not requested the soft loans to which they have access. What will happen then with this money?
With the indications that the Member States have given us within the revisions of their plans, there are still more than 80,000 million euros of credits that have not been claimed, but this financing is still there. European countries have until the end of August to formalize their credit request.
European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans acknowledges that fighting climate change and making the EU climate neutral by 2050 will require mountains of money. Where is it going to come from?
Regarding the financing of the digital and green transition, this will require substantial investments that must be made with national public financing, with the available European tools including the Recovery and Resilience instrument and cohesion funds. If I’m not mistaken, 30% of the money from these latest grants will go to pursue energy transition objectives. It is important to use this financing that is available, but what must be emphasized is that part of this money, in any case, must come from the private sector and that is why we are working on sustainable financing and the capital market union, because it will be the The private sector must provide the necessary leverage to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
What ceiling exists to send the reformed Re Power EU plans put in place due to the invasion of the Ukraine and the energy crisis? [Algo que España no ha hecho].
Generally speaking, we have invited countries to submit their revised plans by April 1, but very few did so by that date and very few have done so today. There is no specific date to submit this revised plan, but there is a general date of the end of 2026 for the implementation of the plan and for the use of the available money.