Senior MEP voices concern over role EU regions will play in Coronavirus recovery plan

Markus Ferber, a member of Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, takes aim at Member States over their implementation of the EU’s €750bn economic recovery plan.
Markus Ferber: European Parliament Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

01 Mar 2021

The criticism from Ferber follows on the heels of the widespread criticism of the EU’s vaccination programme which, in all Member States, is far behind that of other countries like the UK, US and Israel.

Many MEPs have been critical of the EU’s vaccination strategy, with Parliament’s President David Sassoli admitting on Thursday there had been “mistakes, shortcomings and even some naivety” in the way the EU has handled the health crisis.

Specifically, Ferber, a German member, accuses EU Member States of failing to comply with the Parliament’s demand that cities and regions are fully consulted about the way the flagship plan is put into practice at local level.

The EPP deputy has now written to Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, an executive vice-president of the Commission, about the issue.

The letter, seen by this website, reads, “I am writing to you in order to express my concerns about the way many Member States are implementing the provisions in the regulation establishing a Recovery and Resilience Facility [RRF] in relation to the inclusion of local and regional authorities.”

He says that Parliament, as co-legislator, specifically stressed that “Regional and local authorities can be important partners in the implementation of reforms and investments. In that regard, they should be appropriately consulted and involved, in accordance with the national legal framework.”

“Regional and local authorities can be important partners in the implementation of reforms and investments. In that regard, they should be appropriately consulted and involved, in accordance with the national legal framework” Markus Ferber, EPP

He goes on, “Furthermore, Member States are required to substantiate how they involved local and regional authorities in the drafting process. We all want to ensure that the RRF has the maximum impact in order to support the economic recovery.”

“I believe that consulting local and regional authorities is a key step in that process as they, on the one hand, have a deep understanding of the problems on the ground, and on the other hand, are often the entities actually implementing the projects agreed on national level.”

“Therefore, the passage of consulting regional and local authorities was included deliberately and out of a genuine desire to improve the quality of the nation recovery plans and thereby speed up the economic recovery.”

In the letter, Ferber says he was “disheartened” to learn about a recent consultation conducted by the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) and the Committee of Regions (CoR) among their member organisations “which proves that only a small minority of Member States actually followed through with the requirement of consulting local and regional authorities.”

He adds, “The assessment by CoR and CEMR also concludes that the main obstacle towards effective involvement of local and regional authorities simply was the unwillingness of Member States to involve appropriately such authorities in the process.”

Ferber asks, “what does the Commission make of such blatant disregards of the RRF provisions by Member States?”

“Both the CoR and CEMR worked together to carry out a survey of the extent to which the Member States have involved local and regional authorities and their national associations in that exercise. The results were not encouraging”

Carol Thomas, policy advisor CEMR

He also tells the commissioner to urge Member States during the ongoing dialogue on the national recovery plans to “fully involve local and regional authorities in the design of the RRF and even to reject national recovery plans if this standard is not met.”

Member States have until the end of April to submit their Recovery and Resilience Plans (RRPs) and the CoR and CEMR (amongst other associations) have geared themselves up to raise awareness of the issue.

Carol Thomas, a policy advisor at the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) said, “Member states are required to submit their RRPs in order to draw down the funding/loans foreseen for their recovery efforts.”

“Both the CoR and CEMR worked together to carry out a survey of the extent to which the Member States have involved local and regional authorities and their national associations in that exercise. The results were not encouraging.”

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