(Source: European Commission)
The European Commission has today adopted a positive assessment of Belgium’s recovery and resilience plan. This is an important step towards the EU disbursing €5.9 billion in grants under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). This financing will support the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Belgium’s recovery and resilience plan. It will play a key role in enabling Belgium to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The RRF – at the heart of NextGenerationEU – will provide up to €672.5 billion (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across the EU. The Belgian plan forms part of an unprecedented coordinated EU response to the COVID-19 crisis, to address common European challenges by embracing the green and digital transitions, to strengthen economic and social resilience and the cohesion of the Single Market.
The Commission assessed Belgium’s plan based on the criteria set out in the RRF Regulation. The Commission’s analysis considered, in particular, whether the investments and reforms set out in Belgium’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.
Securing Belgium’s green and digital transitions
The Commission’s assessment finds that Belgium’s plan devotes 50% of its total allocation to measures that support climate objectives. This includes investments in measures to support the renovation of public and private buildings across the country to increase their energy efficiency, the deployment of alternative energy technologies such as low-carbon hydrogen production and reforms and investments to accelerate the transition to green mobility. It also provides for important investments to restore biodiversity, tackle the growing problem of droughts and promote the efficient use of resources, recycling, and the circular economy.
The Commission finds that Belgium’s plan devotes 27% of its total allocation to measures that support the digital transition. This includes measures to digitalise the public administration and justice system, the provision of digital skills training, strengthening Belgium’s cybersecurity capacity and developing the legal framework for the deployment of 5G.
Reinforcing Belgium’s economic and social resilience
The Commission considers that Belgium’s plan includes an extensive set of mutually reinforcing reforms and investments that contribute to effectively addressing all or a significant subset of the economic and social challenges outlined in the country-specific recommendations addressed to Belgium by the Council in the European Semester in 2019 and in 2020. It includes measures to improve the efficiency of public spending and the fiscal and social sustainability of pensions, promote training and skills development, sustainable transport, the energy transition, research and innovation and digital infrastructure. The plan also provides for reforms and investments intended to reduce regulatory and administrative burdens and improve the business environment.
The plan represents a comprehensive and adequately balanced response to Belgium’s economic and social situation, thereby contributing appropriately to all six pillars referred to in the RRF Regulation.
Supporting flagship investment and reform projects
Belgium’s plan proposes projects in seven European flagship areas. These are specific investment projects which address issues that are common to all Member States in areas that create jobs and growth and are needed for the green and digital transition. For instance, Belgium has proposed to provide more than €1 billion to renovate public and private buildings, including social housing, to improve their energy performance. Belgium has also proposed to provide around €900 million to boost the digital, language and technical skills of vulnerable groups, job seekers and young people, to improve social inclusion and facilitate access to the labour market.
The Commission’s assessment finds that none of the measures included in the plan do any significant harm to the environment, in line with the requirements laid out in the RRF Regulation.
The control systems put in place by Belgium are considered adequate to protect the financial interests of the Union. The plan provides sufficient details on how national authorities will prevent, detect and correct instances of conflict of interest, corruption and fraud relating to the use of funds.
Members of the College said:
President Ursula von der Leyen said: “Today, the European Commission has decided to give its green light to Belgium’s recovery and resilience plan. NextGenerationEU will play a crucial role in financing the investments and reforms necessary to build the future we are committed to. The €5.9 billion available to Belgium will finance measures that will contribute to building a greener, more digital future for all of its citizens. The plan places a particularly strong emphasis on measures that will accelerate Belgium’s green transition, with 50% of financing directed towards achieving climate objectives. We will stand by Belgium every step of the way to ensure the vision contained in the plan is fully realised.”
Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, said: “Belgium’s recovery plan will help the country’s economy to recover from successive COVID lockdowns and get on a greener and more digital path. Half the plan is devoted to supporting climate goals, including with investments to make buildings more energy efficient, support green mobility and alternative energy technologies. The reform of the widely-used company car tax scheme will also contribute to achieving the climate goals. The plan will support a digitalisation drive in the public administration and judiciary, which will help to cut red tape and create a more business-friendly environment. I particularly support the measures that will encourage schoolchildren and workers to have more digital skills, preparing the Belgian labour market for the future. Last but not least, we welcome measures will address the needs of vulnerable groups, including investment in social housing and early child care.
Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for Economy, said: “Belgium’s plan sets out a programme of reforms and investments that should give a major boost both to the country’s competitiveness and to its environmental and social sustainability. Two thirds of the plan’s investments support the green or digital transition. The reform of the company car scheme and investments in electric buses, charging stations and cycling lanes will cut emissions and improve air quality. Schools and rural areas will enjoy improved connectivity while the justice, health and social security systems will see major improvements in efficiency through digitalisation. Finally, investments in skills should facilitate social integration of vulnerable groups, reduce the digital divide and enhance career perspectives for young people.”
The Commission has today adopted a proposal for a decision to provide €5.9 billion in grants to Belgium under the RRF. The Council will now have, as a rule, four weeks to adopt the Commission’s proposal.
The Council’s approval of the plan would allow for the disbursement of €770 million to Belgium in pre-financing. This represents 13% of the total allocated amount for Belgium.
The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the satisfactory fulfilment of the milestones and targets outlined in the recovery and resilience plan, reflecting progress on the implementation of the investments and reforms.