Council of Ministers - Austria has submitted projects for reconstruction funds

Austria has submitted its plan for the European reconstruction fund. This was reported by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) on Wednesday in the press foyer after the Council of Ministers. It is estimated that 3,5 billion will go to projects, with a focus on digitization and greening. As a reminder, the EU countries have agreed on a € 750 billion Corona development fund. In all member states, the money should primarily flow into the climate, digitization and education.

According to EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn, the assessment of the 600-page paper from Austria will take time. The first reactions were "very positive". For Kurz, this economic “comeback plan” ensures that future jobs would be created and that the difficult months would now be followed by good years. Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) emphasized that in some areas it would even be easier to get out of the crisis because more modern priorities would be set.

Additional added value

The EU Recovery Fund, set up as a post-Covid program, as a development and resilience plan, enables the European member states to make non-repayable grants for sustainable and climate-relevant investments. This plan is divided into the three thematic blocks “Work”, “Greening & Digitization” and “Location Strengthening”, each of which is centrally supervised by a minister and the responsible ministers are responsible in detail. The aim is to get half a million people back into regular employment within a year.

In order to strengthen the location, the federal government wants to position Austria as competitively as possible within the European Union, said Finance Minister Gernot Blümel (ÖVP). They want to set incentives to invest in Austria and to set up foreign companies.

Climate-damaging investments prohibited

According to the EU, however, there must be no investments in the fossil fuel economy, but only in clean energies. "This is a novelty," said Environment and Transport Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens). When it comes to climate protection, the biggest focus is traffic, for which 850 million are to be used. 350 million each are reserved for projects in the areas of circular economy and biodiversity or the energy transition and climate protection in industry. Because the careful use of resources and biodiversity will also be a focus, according to Gewessler.

According to Gewessler, 46 percent of the claims submitted are in the area of ​​ecology. 41 percent of the funds are to flow into digitization.

In the past few weeks, the opposition had repeatedly criticized Austria for submitting its plans too late. Blümel and Edtstadler resolutely opposed this charge. You referred to extensive preliminary discussions with local authorities and social partners. The EU states have to submit their concrete plans for the money from the 30 billion euro program to the EU Commission by April 750th. Then the authority checks the projects for the financing targets for green and digital. Only if these are waved through will the 3,5 billion euros flow.

The money should then actually be available from 2022, according to Blümel. It is still unclear which specific projects will actually be implemented with it. A total of 180 proposals were submitted by companies, NGOs and academia. Here, too, criticism was voiced that there was no public debate about the proposed projects and submission.

Only at the beginning of the week did the federal government present its own “comeback plan”. Like the recovery fund of the EU, this also includes the essential contents of climate, digitization and further training. What part of the EU development plan will make up in the comeback plan and what additional projects will be initiated will still be worked out, it was said at the beginning of the week when asked by the Ministry of Finance. Likewise, whether and how many additional funds to the 3,5 billion will be taken by the federal government. Many of the submitted projects can also be found in the government program. These include broadband expansion, public transport and the greening of the location.

Criticism from social partners

After the Council of Ministers, the social partners criticized the government's approach to the submission. “The EU has clearly specified the involvement of the social partners in the preparation of the national plans. That did not happen in Austria.

The fact that we now learn from the media that the Austrian plan has already been submitted to the EU Commission is not okay, ”said Chamber of Labor President Renate Anderl in a broadcast. In mid-February there was a meeting of the employee representatives with EU Minister Edtstadler, at which they were asked to be involved in drawing up the concept. That didn't happen. Talking about a finished, submitted concept is not a participation, says Anderl. (temp / del)