Italy to approve reform decree to unlock EU stimulus funds

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By Giuseppe Fonte and Gavin Jones

ROME, May 28 (Reuters)The Italian government will meet later on Friday to approve 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 cabinet is due to meet at 6 p.m. (4 p.m. GMT) to approve the decree, which has been the subject of tense negotiations with the unions. It will then 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 objectives are “even potentially at risk,” according to the draft..

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 decree brings together two parts that were originally supposed to be separate pieces of legislation – one on the governance of the recovery plan 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, which remains to be resolved, is a measure making it easier for companies which win public contracts to subcontract for the realization of projects. Unions say this will lead to lower wages and exploitation of workers.

The decree also expands a scheme offering money to people who make their homes more energy efficient by extending it to hotels and guesthouses, and offers the same benefits to homeowners who install super-fast broadband.

Recipients will receive 110% of what they spend on energy efficiency or broadband installation works.

(1 USD = 0.8219 euros)

(Editing by Frances Kerry)

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