What is happening in the European Union, the European Commission and the European Council? What are their aims and ambitions, and where does the EU money go to? Read more
What is happening in the European Union, the European Commission and the European Council? What are their aims and ambitions, and where does the EU money go to?
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Picture taken after the press conference, 14 Dec 2022 © Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union
EU countries agree to reveal the winners of the 700 billion euro recovery fund
EU Member States have agreed to give their citizens more insight in how each state will spend the 700 billion post-pandemic stimulus package. National governments initially blocked all public scrutiny of where the money ends up, but have now conceded to publish the top 100 recipients per country.
The recovery fund was set up to help EU economies recover from the Covid19 induced lockdowns. What the European Parliament failed to achieve in 2020, it managed to do in round two today: convince the Member States that the fund should become transparent. That is, a bit more than it currently is.
In 2020, when negotiating the rules for the 700 billion Recovery and Resilience Facility (RFF), the Member States resisted pressure from the European Parliament to include requirements to publish the recipients of this money. But in the early hours of Wednesday 14 December 2022, EU negotiators reached a new deal.
The European Parliament seized this opportunity to push its earlier wish to disclose which companies and organisations benefit from the RRF
The EU is changing the RRF rules, so that part of the fund can be spent on investments that will make Member States less dependent upon imports of Russian fossil fuel. That required a change in the legislation. The European Parliament seized this opportunity to push its earlier wish to disclose which companies and organisations benefit from the RRF.
At 4:12 AM this Wednesday, EU negotiators posed for a photo – later distributed via Twitter – to celebrate the conclusion of the negotiations to amend the RRF rules. They will now include a provision requiring member states to publish the hundred recipients in their country who received the largest sums from the RRF.
‘We managed to have a major breakthrough this time,’ said Dragoş Pîslaru, Romanian MEP at a press conference Wednesday morning. Pîslaru (Renew Europe) was one of Parliament’s negotiators. ‘Member States will have to create an easy-to-use portal containing data on the final recipients receiving the highest amount of funding for the implementation of measures.’ Pîslaru is referring to the measures Member States had to specify in their national recovery and resilience plan, before receiving any money from the EU.
The European Parliament initially wanted to have the data of all recipients published, but settled for the top 100 per member state, Pîslaru explained when asked by Follow the Money. ‘Why only 100? Because it is a negotiation. The Council said that it is a huge administrative burden.’
The EU’s lawyer-linguists are still drafting the final legal text, but several sources have already confirmed to Follow the Money that the amended legislation will require member states to create an ‘easy to use and public portal’, including data on ‘the 100 final recipients receiving the highest amount of funding for the implementation of measures under the Facility’.
Member States will be required to update the data ‘twice a year’. However, it is unclear when these portals have to be up and running
The European Commission will centralise the data and publish it in its Recovery and Resilience Scoreboard. Pîslaru: ‘Citizens, NGOs, anyone that wants to monitor [the RRF], will find in the scoreboard information about the top 100 recipients in all Member States, related to the RRF.’
According to the draft text, Member States will be required to update the data ‘twice a year’. However, it is unclear when these portals have to be up and running.
It is also unclear whether the top 100 requirement refers to the 100 top receivers at that moment in time, or the top 100 receivers during the whole implementation period of the fund. If it’s the latter, one needs to have a ranking of all recipients. It is difficult to see how this ranking exercise can be deployed before all of the money is spent. The RRF will be doled out until the end of 2026.
In autumn 2021, Follow the Money created an international consortium of European journalists and media under the banner of the #RecoveryFiles. Ever since, this team has been trying to map who benefits from the fund. The team established that car companies and consultancy firms are among the beneficiaries of the fund.
The compromise reached on Wednesday early morning still needs formal approval from the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, which represents the national governments.
The Recovery Files is a pan-European research project investigating the Recovery and Resilience Facility for the months to come. For this investigation, Follow the Money joined forces with journalists across Europe. You can read more about the project, the mediapartners and participating investigative journalists on this page: https://www.ftm.eu/recoveryfiles.
This investigative project is important because of the massive amount of money involved – almost 725 billion euros – and the worrying lack of involvement of national parliaments. How this enormous pile of cash will be spent is obviously a matter of great interest to the European citizenry.