Greece is among the seven European Union countries to date to have submitted a fully formed blueprint for the utilization of resources from the Next Generation EU fund. This is according to Declan Costello, the deputy director general for economic and financial affairs at the European Commission.
The EU official, known in Greece since his time as a member of the creditors’ “troika” in the 2010s, was speaking at an online conference by The Economist on the Next Generation EU fund, and praised the Greek government for its “very good start.”
He did warn, however, that the difficulties in Greece arise in the implementation phase and in the absorption of resources, so this is where the challenge lies now, he noted.
In the same vein, the head of the Commission’s Recovery and Resilience Task Force (RECOVER), Céline Gauer, said that Greece was one of the first countries to submit a plan, which allows for optimism. She is participating in the negotiations on the Greek blueprint, already taking place twice a week.
All speakers at the online event, including Finance Minister Christos Staikouras and the president of the Eurogroup Working Group, Tuomas Saarenheimo, highlighted the fact that the 32 billion euros in EU grants and loans due to Greece constitutes a major opportunity for the country, not only to heal its wounds from the pandemic but also to turn to a new production model.
Major projects require very good planning, Saarenheimo warned, adding that structural changes are also hard, as they are not usually popular. Nevertheless, he noted, “we cannot fail.”
Staikouras pointed out that Greece aspires to absorb the first €5.5 billion next year, strengthening its gross domestic product by 2.1 percentage points, and added that some mature projects have already started – i.e. the country’s decarbonization and digitalization, and the “Exoikonomo-Aftonomo” subsidies program.
The prime minister’s chief economic adviser Alex Patelis offered some examples of the projects the government wishes to put under the EU subsidy umbrella; they are a huge reforestation plan for the country with the planting of 30 million trees, the creation of a permanent flora and fauna observatory, the development of 5G telecommunication networks and an extensive program for combating discrimination.