BRUSSELS: The EU expressed concern over delays in Italy’s implementation of reforms under its post-pandemic recovery plan, according to a report published on Wednesday.
Italy, the European Union’s third-largest economy and one of its most indebted, is the main beneficiary under the bloc’s $860 billion (800 billion euros) COVID-19 recovery package.
Some 68.9 billion euros in grants and 122.6 billion euros in loans have been earmarked for Italy as part of Europe’s largest ever stimulus package, known as NextGenerationEU.
In return, Italy has agreed to a timetable to implement economic reforms, some of which will likely be hard for Prime Minister Georgia Meloni’s populist government to stomach.
On Wednesday, the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, presented its recommendations to member states and called on Italy to act fast to address any issues.
“The implementation of Italy’s recovery and resilience plan is underway, however with increasing risk of delays,” the commission wrote in a report on Italy.
“Proceeding swiftly with the implementation of the plan ... is essential due to the temporary nature of the Recovery and Resilience Facility in place until 2026.”
Brussels has already disbursed 42 billion euros but, in March this year, the EU froze a third scheduled payment worth 19 billion euros, pending clarifications on Italy’s plans.
Brussels wants the money to be spent on projects that boost Europe’s transition to a greener and more digital economy, and on infrastructure, especially the rail sector.
But some of the projects on which Italy plans to use the money have raised eyebrows in Brussels, including the renovation of a football stadium in Florence.