The Brussels proposal that was returned to sender with indignation a few weeks ago was instead accepted yesterday, to the delight of the Economy Minister, Giancarlo Giorgetti, who feared a dangerous budget hole: the third tranche of the PNRR is released with a payment of 18,500 million, five hundred million less (519 million to be exact) than expected. Money that will be recovered, the minister assures the Pnrr, when (within several months, perhaps at the beginning of 2024) the fourth European transfer arrives.
During the Council of the EU at the end of June, the hypothesis of a slight reduction in the third installment had already been raised. But the Italian government not only denied it, but also asked and got the European Commission to stop the coup. Actually, there were no other solutions. Because the lost objective, that of the unitary residences that should have been available during the verification phase by the Brussels technicians, cannot be recovered in the short term. This fact pushes the opposition to accuse the competent minister, Anna Maria Bernini. The head of the University defends herself and claims the commitment obtained by her colleague Lease de ella: update the objective in the next step of the Pnrr. But the controversies of recent weeks about the difficulties of students to find accommodation in university cities weigh heavily. Let it be suspected, not entirely verifiable in that great procedural tangle that the Pnrr is becoming, that Italy has tried to include those already existing in the agreed objective (7,500 beds).
From Fitto’s point of view, the third installment ended in the best possible way. There is a compromise, albeit fragile, with Brussels. What is sustained despite the hard wing of the Fdi, embodied in this case by Undersecretary Fazzolari, sees in the EU economic commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni, a “counter-song” who would ultimately like to put a tail on the work of the executive.
The former prime minister qualifies the accusations and claims, together with Fitto, the goodness of the agreement reached, which the minister communicated yesterday during a new PNRR control room.
The mediation is as follows: the third tranche arrives by removing the target for places but transferring the 519 million to the fourth tranche and “saving” the general objective of 60,000 new student places planned for 2026.
The minister, therefore, affirms: the half billion is lost only temporarily, but in 2023 all the expected 35 billion will arrive (19 in the third step and 16 in the fourth). Fitto recalls that the discussion about the third installment has been going on since spring because the verification of the 55 goals that Italy had to complete by December 2022 was more complicated than expected. In general, government sources point out, the third installment was a “particularly complex challenge” because the government took office on October 22 and there were still 30 goals to meet by the end of the year, all of which required legislative interventions.
For Brussels, the negotiation was a kind of tug of war, to show Rome that the EU is serious about controls. For Italy, the result is that the objective of the places has gone from being quantitative to qualitative, that is to say, it is not linked to a precise number. A fact that fuels even more the protests of the opposition and the protests of the student associations. The only figure that remains in the Pnrr regarding this chapter are the 60,000 accommodations that will be found until 2026.
The solution found also leads to a new modification of the fourth term of the Pnrr: Rome had already presented a list of 10 corrections of 27 objectives in Brussels, now this one on university residences has been added. And something is still being considered to correct. Fitto has promised to bring the full revision of the Plan to Parliament on August 1.
Surely, the controls that the EU will carry out on the deadlines that had to be met by the end of June 2023 will be rigorous and this will promote the effective payment of the 16,000 million (plus 519 million)
The opposition points a finger at the Government that “betrays the expectations of university students”, say Pd, M5s and Avs in chorus. And Accion also underlines the difficulties that the executive is encountering. Elly Schlein, however, renews the invitation to the government to “collaborate”.
Doubts also come from the rating agency Standard & Poor’s, according to which the use of Pnrr funds lags behind in Italy and Spain. “At the end of 2022, Spain and Italy have used only 10% and 20% of the available resources respectively”, so “it seems increasingly likely” that they will ask for “more time to undertake complex investment projects that concern climate, digitization and social cohesion objectives”.