The European Parliament has approved the EU budget for 2021 and, as expected, a lot of attention has been given to environmental policies and Covid-19-recovery packages. Sustainability, over the coming years, will be an in-built principle in the EU strategy to relaunch the economy after the crisis brought about by the 2020 pandemic. Digitalisation is also a hot topic, with key programmes to be implemented all over Europe. The aim of these policies is to ensure a sustainable recovery in all Member States. To this purpose, a new recovery instrument will be implemented, which has been dubbed Next Generation EU.
The aims of Next Generation EU
Next Generation EU is an ambitious plan, by which the European Commission hopes to create opportunities out of the unprecedented challenge we are facing. Recovery plans should not just be effective: they should be fair as well and jumpstart the single-market economy in a sustainable way. It is not just a matter of supporting the recovery of the Union and its individual Member States: it is also about taking steps to ensure our collective future is safer and more sustainable than our present. The European Green Deal and multiple digitalisation plans will be at the core of the Commission’s strategy to support growth and increase occupation rates over the next seven years.
Investing in Europe’s future
Sustainability is a challenge Europe can no longer shirk and digitalisation is an essential step in achieving it. Green digital transitions, in particular, are to be encouraged on all levels, from the global European perspective to each and every Member State and even individual enterprises. This has motivated the Commission to organise Next Generation EU around three core points: supporting investments and reforms in the Member States, incentivising private investments and putting a system of checks and protection plans in place to avoid that a crisis like the one we are experiencing can happen again. After all, the EU was born on the premise of learning from our collective past and using such lessons to build a better future.
Levelling the playing field
As part of Next Generation EU, € 560 Bn will be provided to support the Member States in investments pertaining to digitalisation and sustainability, in an effort to jumpstart the Union’s economy. The funds will be distributed taking into account which Countries have been hit hardest by the pandemic, in an attempt at levelling the playing field within the Union in terms of employment rates and socio-economic impact, among other criteria.
Supporting private investments
As well as allocating funds, Next Generation EU will support private investments in an effort to relaunch the industries that have been most affected by the current crisis, particularly in the Countries and regions whose economies have suffered the most this year. This will be achieved through the creation of a new solvency support instrument to help private companies make their resources readily available where they are most needed. The goal, once again, is to encourage a smooth transition to climate neutrality and digitalisation.
Preparing for future health crises
The 2020 pandemic has shown critical weaknesses in the European health system, or rather, has shown how the lack of Europe-wide policies in this respect leaves the whole union and individual member states vulnerable when confronted with a health crisis. Therefore, a new Health Programme will be launched. EU4Health will put in place a set of key protections against future health crises, strengthening the Civil Protection mechanism across the whole Union, and funding research.