Spain is among the Member States with the lowest absorption rates in the EU. According to official figures, only 68 % of the funds from the ERDF Multiregional Operational Programme (POPE) have been allocated to projects, and payments have been made for only 24% of the total.
Two packages were recently adopted in response to the coronavirus (CRII and CRII+), allowing the reallocation of unused funds under the current MFF to address the COVID-19 crisis. Under CRII, Member States are able to submit new operational programmes or to re-programme existing ones, thus allowing projects and expenditure associated with the crisis to be financed in their entirety using European funds.
However, the reprogramming of the Multiregional Operational Programme (POPE) has not been published in Spain.
Spanish Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Susana Solís Perez of the Renew Europe Group, raised a written parliamentary question to the European Commission in September 2020. MEP Solís Perez enquired from the Commission “has it received the reprogramming of the Spanish Multiregional Operational Programmes?” and “if so, have 100% of available funds been allocated?”
Lastly, Spanish MEP requested information on “what measures will be put in place to promote public-private partnerships, ensure investment in innovative projects and ensure that operational programmes are modified in time?”
On 02 December, Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner Elisa Ferreira responded on behalf of the European Commission. Commissioner Ferreira responded that “on 19 October 2020, Spain submitted a request for an amendment to the European Regional Development Fund Multiregional Operational Programme with a series of measures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Commissioner Ferreira reported that “the amendment earmarks more than EUR 1 billion to face the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing the response capacity of the health system through the purchase of protective equipment and health material (EUR 971 million), and purchasing computers and other digital resources for students and schools (EUR 62 million)” and “financial resources come from an internal reallocation of uncommitted funds supporting research and innovation, digitalization, small and medium-sized companies and low carbon economy”.
The Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner further clarified that “additional funds are transferred from the small and medium-sized initiative and three regional programmes” and “Spain requests to apply a co-financing rate of 100% to expenditure declared in payment applications during the accounting year 1 July 2020 — 30 June 2021 for all priority axes of this programme”.
She added “like all Spanish regional programmes that have been recently modified, this amendment to the Multiregional programme is devoted to strengthen the capacities to respond to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic” and “research and innovation projects whose objectives are aligned with the COVID-19 response are eligible for co-financing”.
In closing, the Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner concluded that “the programme will continue supporting actions to promote innovative projects, business investment in research and innovation, and synergies between business, research centres and academia as originally planned when the programme was adopted”.
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