ROME (Reuters) – Italy submitted its Recovery Plan to the European Commission late on Friday, a government spokesman said, just getting the document to Brussels within the April 30 target date set for all 27 European Union countries.
The plans are a prerequisite to receive cash from the EU’s one-off, 750-billion-euro ($902 billion) fund set up to help member states recover from the coronavirus pandemic and give the continent a greener, more digital and more resilient economy.
Italy, among the countries hardest-hit by COVID-19, is eligible for some 205 billion euros, the largest slice offered to any EU state.
Rome has been in intense negotiations with the Commission in recent weeks to overcome Brussels’ concerns that its plan lacked detail on structural reforms and how it would be put into practice and monitored, sources told Reuters.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi intervened directly last Sunday, calling Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to smooth negotiations, after which he amended the document before presenting it to his cabinet.
The government has agreed to an ambitious slew of reforms, including cutting red tape, shaking up the tax code and streamlining the legal system, promising to rush them through parliament at record speed.
Draghi told parliament this week the Recovery Plan held the key to “the destiny of the country” and has always said it would be presented by end of April in order to get the EU funds as soon as possible.
The Commission has called the April 30 target date a “soft deadline” with no sanction for late arrivals, and has said it is more important that the national plans are of high quality than that they land on time.
Several EU countries submitted their plans before Italy, while many other are expected to send them to Brussels in May.
The Commission has two months from the moment it gets a national scheme to check it meets the criteria. EU finance ministers then have another month to evaluate them.
No EU money is expected to be disbursed before July.
($1 = 0.8317 euros)
(Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Crispian Balmer)