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National Recovery and Resilience Plans: Empowering the green and digital transitions?

Economic governance / DISCUSSION PAPER
Marta Pilati

Date: 27/04/2021
If designed well, national Recovery and Resilience Plans (RRPs) could encourage comprehensive reform and the long-term investment needed to make the twin green and digital transitions a success while ensuring social and territorial cohesion across Europe.

The COVID-19 crisis has worsened inequalities between European countries, regions and social groups. The twin transition to a more sustainable and digital society, although necessary to avoid the drastic effects of climate change and simultaneously ensure economic prosperity, will likely have bigger consequences for already vulnerable groups.

For the EU to 'build back better', the national recovery plans have to reflect this reality. They are highly visible in national political debates, indicating strong national political ownership of the content. However, the process often appears untransparent, managed by the government behind closed doors and with limited input from stakeholders.

The tight framework imposed by the European Commission has helped create coherence between the national RRPs. But this only applies in broad terms, as details are often lacking or fragmented. Links to other EU programmes or cross-border projects are limited. And although the RRPs recognise the expected impact on social, economic and territorial cohesion, there's little effort going into thorough impact assessments.

Therefore, EU member states and the European Commission should improve the content of the national recovery plans by enhancing cross-references and links between measures, exploiting complementarities with other EU funding sources, and strengthening the reform components.

The Commission, in particular, should strengthen the EU dimension by highlighting potential cross-country synergies between RRPs. A flexible framework for cooperation between European governments can broker the first steps to reduce the complexity and risks linked to cross-border projects. To mainstream support for socio-economic and territorial cohesion, the Commission should impose ex-ante territorial and social impact assessments. These assessments should not only focus on economic growth but also the well-being of citizens.

Finally, when it comes to implementation, the Commission should request member states to provide as many details as possible on the measures suggested in their plans and ask for intermediate and ex-post assessments. In turn, national governments should improve the transparency of the implementation phase of their respective RRPs.

This Discussion Paper is part of the joint project between the European Office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and the European Policy Centre (EPC), "National Recovery and Resilience Plans: enablers of the twin transformations?". This project was launched in late 2020 and analyses national Recovery and Resilience Plans and their contributions to successful and coherent EU transitions to a sustainable and digital economy and cohesive society.

Read the full paper here.
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