Brussels, Rome It was an election campaign hit that Giorgia Meloni said at almost every appearance in late summer: Under her leadership, Italy wanted to change the use of the promised funds from the Corona reconstruction fund. The turning point of the Ukraine war, which has clearly shifted the needs of the country, is too great.
Meloni has been Prime Minister and head of a right-wing alliance since the end of October – and keeps her word. She has the plan rewritten as to how the almost 200 billion euros that the country will receive from Brussels will be used. There are no official documents yet, but the first details are already becoming public.
A big surprise: Hydrogen, one of the top priorities of the previous government around Mario Draghi, should no longer play a major role in the transport turnaround in the future.
300 million euros should actually flow into nine hydrogen stations in order to operate trains. According to media reports, the Ministry of Infrastructure, led by the head of the right-wing Lega, Matteo Salvini, would rather put the money into the dilapidated water network. Salvini also wants to cancel the 40 planned hydrogen filling stations for trucks, which should be distributed across the entire motorway network.
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The Ministry of Agriculture is demanding more resources than before. It wants to reopen tenders for EU-sponsored supply chain agreements between producers and industry. So far, funds of 1.2 billion euros from the aid fund have been earmarked for this, but so far there have been inquiries amounting to six billion euros.
There should also be changes in the education sector. 22,500 scholarships were intended for doctoral students. The number is now to be reduced to 15,000 because the demand is lower, but also because the universities apparently cannot take on that many doctoral students.
Doubts about Italy’s spending capacity
Doubts are growing in Brussels as to whether Italy will even manage to spend all the money in the given time frame. This is not just about “Next Generation EU”, the Corona Fund, but also about allocations from other structural funds. Italy would have to spend almost 30 billion euros from these old funds by the end of the year.
These are funds that were paid out between 2014 and 2020. If you add the planned expenditure of the Corona Fund, Rome would have to invest a sum of 70 billion euros this year. However, there are delays in various ministries and regions.
However, the EU Commission has not yet received any change request from Rome. The authority does not want to comment on media reports. However, she expects that several states will want to improve their national development plans. In addition to Italy, Spain and Portugal have already announced this.
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If an application is received, the EU Commission can examine it for up to two months. After that, the EU Council has another month to approve or reject it. Overall, it can take up to three months for the changes to be accepted.
However, the Commission can also significantly speed up the process if the changes are only small. The federal government, for example, submitted an application in December to improve the German plan. The commission granted the approval within a few weeks in January.
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