The Malta Independent 15 October 2021, Friday

Von der Leyen gives the green light for Malta's €316.4 million recovery and resilience plan

Albert Galea Thursday, 16 September 2021, 15:28 Last update: about 29 days ago

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave the thumbs up to Malta's €316.4 million recovery and resilience plan in a visit to the country on Thursday.

This is an important step towards the EU disbursing €316.4 million in grants to the country under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) which will be crucial for the implementation of new investments and reform measures outlined in the country’s recovery plan.

Speaking in Valletta, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave the green light on behalf of the European Commission to Malta’s recovery and resilience plan, saying that it clearly meets the demands enshrined within the EU’s NextGeneration EU programme.

Von der Leyen said that the NextGeneration EU plan, under which this set of grants falls under, is more than a recovery plan – it is a plan to shape the decades to come through an €800 billion investment across the bloc.

She referred to a visit held at Malta’s IT hub MITA earlier in the day, saying that she was excited to see how Malta’s digital future looked.

“The plan clearly meets the demands,” von der Leyen said.

Prime Minister Robert Abela meanwhile said that the funds will be used to bolster Malta’s medium-term vision for an improvement in quality of life, turning the nation’s infrastructure from a bottleneck to an enabler, ensuring that the country’s educational system becomes one of the best in Europe, seeing that the country is carbon neutral by 2050, and transforming governance structures so that they adequately reflect needs and aspirations of modern society.

The construction of a pilot near-carbon neutral school is one of the investments planned as part of the plan, as is the provision of more charging facilities and the electrification of Malta’s public transport fleet.

Abela also praised his government’s rule of law reforms, saying that wide-ranging legislative reforms had been carried out in the last 20 months in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Yes we took a bit longer than other to submit this plan, but we didn’t want to submit something to simply tick the boxes; we wanted to prepare our proposals carefully.  We negotiated hard but fairly, and our plan was endorsed by the Commission without delay, clearly confirming the credibility of the Maltese government,” Abela said.

The Commission said in a statement that it had assessed Malta's plan based on the criteria set out in the RRF Regulation, taking into consideration, in particular, whether the investments and reforms contained in Malta's plan support the green and digital transitions; contribute to effectively addressing challenges identified in the European Semester; and strengthen its growth potential, job creation and economic and social resilience.

The Commission said that Malta's plan devotes 54% of its total allocation to measures that support climate objectives.

Indeed, the plan will allow the granting of access to free public transport for select cohorts of the population, allow the building of a new ferry landing place in the St. Paul’s Bay and Bugibba area in an investment of €16 million, and allow the energy efficient renovation and greening of private and public buildings in an investment of €60 million.

The funds will also be used to implement the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan of the Valletta region and for reforms of waste management systems with the aim of strengthening the circular economy in Malta.

The Commission said that Malta's plan devotes 26% of its total allocation to measures that support the digital transition.

This includes efforts to further digitalise the public administration and public services, including the healthcare and judicial systems, as well as to strengthen initiatives related to digitalisation for the private sector in an investment which will total up to an investment of €59 million.

The plan includes measures in the areas of healthcare, social protection, education and skills, innovation, energy efficiency, waste, sustainable transport judicial independence, anti-corruption and anti-money laundering. It also includes measures that partly address challenges in the areas of aggressive tax planning, innovation and pension adequacy and sustainability.

“The plan represents a comprehensive and adequately balanced response to Malta's economic and social situation, thereby contributing appropriately to all six pillars of the RRF Regulation,” the Commission said.

The Commission’s assessment also found that none of the measures included in the plan significantly harm the environment, in line with the requirements laid out in the RRF Regulation.

Now that the Commission has adopted the grants, the European Council will now have to approve the proposal as well – something it has to do in the space of four weeks. The Council's approval of the plan would allow for the disbursement of €41.1 million to Malta in pre-financing. This represents 13% of the total allocated amount for Malta.

The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the satisfactory fulfilment of the milestones and targets outlined in the Council Implementing Decision, reflecting progress on the implementation of the investments and reforms.

Photos: Dominic Aquilina

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