The National Recovery and Resilience Plans represent the new framework in which member states will identify their development strategy and allocate European and national resources with the objective of relaunching socio-economic conditions after the pandemic.
This process, initiated as part of the European response to the global health crisis, follows the construction of the Next Generation EU and it is meant to combine national and European efforts to relaunch the economy and reshape it to steer the digital and climate transitions.
For European Progressives, it is worth assessing the potential that these national plans have towards curbing inequalities and delivering wellbeing for all. FEPS, in partnership with a network of organisations and research centres, plans on building up a structured network of experts to monitor the implementation of National Recovery Plans and assess their potential impact on key social outcomes.
The Recovery Watch, as a sort of observatory, with dedicated cross-country publications and experts’ inputs, shall provide an assessment of the social dimension of National Recovery Plans also including a check of the public spending on the digital and ecological transition.
In essence, the project shall monitor the distributive effects of EU spending via the Next Generation EU as well as those of the policies which compose the national recovery plans. This shall make available fact- and data-based evidence to sharpen the implementation of the national plans and instruct progressive policymaking from the local to the European level.
The recovery plans designed at the national level cover virtually every policy space; the research for this project is not meant to monitor all the plans and follow the implementation of each measure, nor to monitor the full use and allocation of the EU financing. Instead, the project will focus on areas of particular relevance for the progressive family and for EU policymaking.
To this end, FEPS, with an internal steering group, will identify specific research questions to feed the network of experts and instruct the focus of each policy study. The specific research questions that will thoroughly monitor relevant aspects of the recovery plans will be organised around four focus areas.
Climate Action - Not all measures promoting sustainability contribute to wellbeing; in this focus areas we shall monitor the employment implications of climate-related spending, its ability to maintain territorial and social cohesion and foster the most strategic aspects of a green industrial policy. Social and regional aspects of the climate transition will play a relevant role, including gender equality and impact on local supply chains.
Digital Transition - It is often assumed that the digital transition is an apolitical process that will automatically lead to increases in productivity and welfare to the benefit of all. This is also reflected in the NextGenEU plans, which include a 20% spending requirement on ‘digital’, without much specification. But the reality is different.
The digital transition struggles to show up in productivity statistics and has had complex distributional effects that have increased inequalities. Beyond that, it has led to dependencies on privately controlled infrastructures that reduce the scope for policymaking. It is important to consider whether the national recovery plans provide credible avenues to address these issues.
Welfare Measures - The national recovery plans contain a variety of welfare measures pertaining to employment (from income support to youth employment policies), education (from childcare to infrastructure for universities), health and equality matters. Whether these measures have served their purpose or not is a relevant policy question. Ample cross-country learning is possible in this field to help update the welfare system to the most modern provisions.
EU Governance - The Next Generation EU represented a step up in economic integration within the Union thanks to the emergence of new tools for coordination of economic policy as well as for the new tools employed, the joint borrowing for instance. Despite the so far temporary nature of this exercise, there are certainly many lessons to be learned on the design of the recovery strategy and policy, its coordination and the functioning of multi-level governance which can be useful in the context of rethinking the objectives, architecture and means of the EU economic governance.