Coalition eyes €900m from EU ‘recovery and resilience’ Covid fund

Cash to be paid in grants over two years and is part of bloc’s €750bn Covid-19 fiscal resource

The Government will shortly apply to the European Commission for more than €900 million in funding for a series of projects including the retrofitting of public buildings and online census forms.

The money will be paid in grants over the next two years and is part of the EU’s €750 billion “recovery and resilience” fund. This aims to help member states deal with the costs of the Covid-19 pandemic and boost the European economic recovery.

For the first time the bloc will raise its own debt and distribute funds to member states, though there is likely to be close supervision on how the funds are spent.

Consequently, the Government must submit detailed plans for the projects that it is seeking to have funded by the EU. The application is expected to be finalised and sent to Brussels by the end of next week.

There are understood to be about 20 projects proposed, which are grouped under three different broad areas. These are advancing the green transition to a low carbon economy, expanding digital reforms and transformation and social and economic recovery, including job creation.

Some of the projects expected to be included in the pitch for funding include an eHealth project, which would enable electronic health records to “follow the patient”, a shared government data centre, and a programme to make the public building stock more environmentally friendly.

Others include the establishment of a fund to assist the third-level education sector in developing regional innovation hubs, the creation of a platform to facilitate people filling out census forms online and a “green skills” training programme to be administered by Solas, the State training agency.

Corporate tax trade-off?

Officials from the Department of Public Expenditure have been in close contact with Brussels in recent weeks as they finalise the applications.

Government sources have downplayed the prospect of pressure coming from the EU on Ireland’s corporate tax regime, a long-time EU target, in return for post-pandemic funds.

European commissioner for economy Paolo Gentiloni confirmed recently that tax reforms are on the commission’s wish list when it comes to Ireland’s national recovery plan.

“It is important to strengthen the fight against tax avoidance and close loopholes that can lead to situations of double non-taxation,” said Mr Gentiloni in a written response to a question from Sinn Féin MEP Chris McManus.

However, there is likely to be stiff opposition from some member states if the commission seeks to use the resilience and recovery fund as leverage on national policymaking.