February 21. 2024. 8:37

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Italy struggles with Recovery Fund, Meloni says no risk

The Italian Court of Auditors found delays in National Reform Programmes (NRP)-related investments, with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni asking Brussels to shift some expenditures from 2026 to 2029 while reassuring the country that she sees no risk and Rome will receive the third tranche.

The Italian Court of Auditors, in its semi-annual report on the state of implementation of the NRP, found that more than half of the measures show delays or are still at a substantially early stage.

“If we understand today […] that some interventions between now and June 30, 2026, cannot be carried out, and it is mathematical, it is scientific that this is the case, we must say it clearly and not wait until 2025 to open the debate on whose fault it is”, said European Affairs Minister Raffaele Fitto (FDI/ECR), who calls for opening a “careful evaluation” so as not to waste resources.

Italy has already obtained €66 billion in the first two tranches and awaits the third €19 billion tranche. By the end of June, it must meet further targets to get the fourth €16 billion tranche. However, given the delays in meeting the targets imposed by Brussels, the third and fourth tranches are at risk.

However, Meloni said she sees “absolutely no risk” and that Rome will receive the third tranche of the NRP.

“I spoke with Ursula von der Leyen, and it seems to me that the Commission appreciates Italy’s serious work. The decisions that are taken are decisions that we are sharing”, Meloni clarified, stressing that the “situation” inherited from the previous government, led by Mario Draghi, “requires to work very quickly”.

Minister Fitto, who is responsible for implementing the NRP, dodged attacks on the government, branding as “ridiculous” the attempt to blame the executive for the delays.

“I am serene, I am optimistic. The only thing that cannot be done is the quite ridiculous attempt to attribute responsibility to this government”, Fitto said.

“There are no tensions with Europe, but I’m afraid sometimes tensions are (purposely) built in Italy. We are working with a running machine with choices that are not ours but which we aim to achieve and overcome in this phase and then move on to the second phase of reshaping the program. The goal is to work in a collaborative spirit with the Commission”, the minister clarified.

Among the causes of the slowdown in the implementation of the Plan, the Italian Court of Auditors reports seems to be the precariousness of the civil service staff, which struggle to ensure the operational continuity of the structures that “would need a certain framework of resources throughout the time horizon of the Plan”.

“The government is behind schedule on the NRP, and we, as mayors, are very concerned. Municipalities are struggling with project management because they have been left alone to manage without staff and resources this huge opportunity for the country”, said Matteo Ricci (PD/S&D), national president of the Italian Local Authorities Association (ALI) and mayor of Pesaro (Toscana).

“There is a lack of reforms that Italy needs to make, starting with the competition reform, to bring in the other NRP instalments and to bring us up to European standards,” Ricci added.

(Federica Pascale | EURACTIV.it)