The principle of solidarity is more than ever at the heart of our European project. Faced with a symmetrical shock affecting all of Europe, the answer can only be European. One based on solidarity and leveraging the full strength of our single market. One that guarantees a level playing field within Europe, and a level playing field vis-a-vis the United States and China.
Solidarity has therefore been the compass for the European Commission’s proposal for a recovery plan on May 27.
This plan is historic both in its volume and in its political, institutional and budgetary architecture. It includes a new instrument – Next Generation EU – to raise 750 billion euros on the financial markets: two-thirds in grants and provisioning of guarantees, and the rest in loans that can be mobilized at the request of member-states.
It is also historic because it is based on our assessment of the needs of entire industrial ecosystems, which are increasingly interlinked and European. When the tourism ecosystem takes a hit, it first affects hotels, restaurants or airlines, but very quickly, a whole range of other companies feel the impact, from aircraft subsidiaries to local food businesses.
The recovery package comprises a new solvency instrument to directly help the many Greek businesses whose activities were hampered by the crisis, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – the backbone of our economy – facing liquidity shortages. It’s about people’s jobs and the future of many family-run businesses, and it is about ensuring a fair level playing field between the Greek economy and other member-states’.
Above all, the recovery plan looks into the future rather than the past. We are shifting the logic from spending to investing. Now is the time to collectively find answers to key questions: How are we going to use this firepower efficiently, not only to repair our economy but also – and that is extremely important – to transform it? How will we ensure that this package delivers for the next generations, by leaping forward rather than staying in the past? How will we ensure a European approach to these investments?
Rather than coming down with pre-made solutions for each country from “Brussels,” it is up to each member-state to define its priorities, through national recovery plans, depending on the structure and the needs of each economy. The Commission will ensure coordination at a European level so that we all pull in the same direction.
Relying on the recovery package, Greece will be able to finance investments in areas such as the digitization of its public services, people’s skills, boosting its vibrant tourism and culture sectors, a more innovative and energy-efficient construction sector, or strengthening the export capacity in the food sector from olive oil to saffron.
However Greece chooses to invest, one common priority we should all have in mind is the opportunity – not to mention the necessity – to leverage this recovery into a transformative process. We need to use this historical package to accelerate our green and digital transition, while increasing at the same time our economic resilience and geopolitical strategic autonomy: our collective capacity to promote our own values and interests.
Thierry Breton is the European commissioner for internal market.