France, Germany plan billions in pandemic recovery spending

Europe is ramping up its recovery plan

FRANKFURT, Germany — France and Germany together laid out plans for billions in spending from the European Union’s pandemic recovery fund aimed at fighting climate change and boosting the use of digital technology across the economy.

The finance ministers of the EU’s two biggest economies on Tuesday underlined their joint determination to use the spending to transform Europe’s economy and get the continent growing again as it lags behind the U.S. and China in rebounding from the pandemic recession.

He called the fund “a groundbreaking step for Europe.”

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire urged the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, to quickly evaluate the plans so that money can start flowing to members states from the 750 billion euro ($906 billion) fund as early as July, noting that the U.S. and China have recovered faster. He said that since the fund was approved “we have lost too much time” and that “Europe must remain in the race.”

The money comes with pressure from Brussels to address problems identified by the European Commission’s review of members states’ economic policies. Spain, for instance, is being asked to overhaul labor laws, tax practices and pensions. Countries with low tax regimes such as Ireland or Cyprus are under pressure to discourage aggressive tax planning by multinational companies.

Italy’s 221.1 billion euro ($267.3 billion) recovery plan includes steps to reduce its backlog of court cases, considered a drag on businesses that can’t get commercial disputes resolved quickly.

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Sylvie Corbet reported from Paris.

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