Italy approves reform decree to unlock EU stimulus funds

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ROME (Reuters) – The Italian government on Friday approved a decree setting out how it will oversee EU-funded investments and speed up procedures for public works, a key step in unlocking EU funds.

Reforms have been promised to the European Commission to get a green light for Rome’s stimulus package and get a first installment by August of the 205 billion euros ($ 250 billion) in grants and cheap loans that ‘she should receive from Brussels.

The decree, which was the subject of tense negotiations with the unions, will now be sent to the Commission for approval.

Italy, which presented its stimulus package last month, is the biggest beneficiary of the € 750 billion kitty set up to help the 27 countries in the bloc recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a draft decree seen by Reuters, the governance of the plan will be led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi, key cabinet ministers and deputy secretaries, while the Treasury is tasked with drawing attention to possible obstacles in the progress of investments.

A separate audit body in the state accounting office is responsible for preventing cases of fraud, corruption or conflict of interest.

Draghi will have extensive powers to appoint special commissioners if plan goals are threatened, according to the project.

With an election scheduled for 2023 at the latest, the decree also sets up a “technical body” in the cabinet cabinet which will remain in place until 2026 to ensure the implementation of investment projects even after changes of government. .

The money from the Recovery Fund will arrive in progressive installments, subject to further Italian reforms in areas such as the tax system, justice reform and antitrust measures according to a predefined and strict timetable.

Friday’s decree brings together two parts that were originally supposed to be separate pieces of legislation – one on the governance of the stimulus package and the other on the simplification of bureaucratic procedures for investments.

In the simplification package, which Draghi originally promised the EU would be adopted by May 20, some measures simplify the authorization of new renewable energy projects such as small solar installations.

Others aim to accelerate ultra-fast connectivity across the country, with a reduction to 90 days from six months of the time required to authorize the installation of antennas for telephone and digital networks.

One of the main points of contention with the unions was over plans to make it easier for companies that win public tenders to contract out projects. The unions said this would lead to lower wages and exploitation of workers.

The firm finally decided to raise the authorized threshold for subcontracting work to 50% of the value of an offer, compared to the previous ceiling of 40%, but on a temporary basis until October 31.

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