The pandemic challenge: How Italy can make a comeback

We must seize the opportunities created by the EU’s mobilisation of an extraordinary amount of resources as a fiscal stimulus for the recovery

An Italian flag hung outside of a window in Bologna with the slogan "Andrà tutto bene" (Everything is gonna be fine) during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. (#iorestoacasa: #istayathome)Pietro Luca Cassarino CC BY-SA
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The second wave of covid-19 is challenging Europe and its citizens, forcing EU governments to adopt containment policies once again to save lives. The members of the European Council held extraordinary videoconferences on 29 October and 19 November to further strengthen and coordinate their collective efforts to fight the pandemic. The leaders discussed vaccines, testing and tracing, containment measures, and actions to ensure that they coordinated with one another effectively, exchanged data, and maintained the functioning of the internal market even in this crisis.

These measures, though necessary, are putting pressure on European economies and societies. This situation increases the urgency of the need to act. While tackling the serious consequences of the pandemic and mourning our losses, we have a duty to seize the opportunities created by the European Union’s mobilisation of an extraordinary amount of resources as a fiscal stimulus for the recovery – and to do so in the spirit of solidarity.

It is important to swiftly conclude the procedure for implementing the Multiannual Financial Framework. This is not the moment for national vetoes.

In Italy, we will pursue an agenda of recovery and resilience through a balanced mix of investments and reforms. The objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and of EU strategic autonomy will be key in this effort. The Italian National Plan for Recovery and Resilience (NPRR) is not just a list of financial expenditures: it forms the basis of a strategic project for the economic modernisation and transformation of our country within the framework of objectives at the EU and global levels.

Indeed, on 13 October 2020, the Italian parliament approved the guidelines of the NPRR and provided political steering for it. Soon after, we started to discuss the plan with the European Commission’s task force.

At the EU level, time is of the essence: it is important to swiftly conclude the procedure for implementing the Multiannual Financial Framework. This is not the moment for national vetoes.

The NPRR focuses on four strategically important areas: modernisation; the green transition; social and regional inclusion; and gender equality. Through the strategy, Italy will overcome the historical obstacles to its economic growth (such as by reforming the judiciary and the public administration) and will adopt measures that have an immediate socio-economic impact. The plan will have long-term effects for future generations, and will support the green and digital transformations by ensuring social inclusion. Investments and reforms under the NPRR will cover what we call “six missions”: digitalisation, innovation, and competitiveness; the green transition; infrastructure for mobility; education, training, research, and culture; social, gender, and territorial equality; and healthcare. Under the Italian government’s guidelines for the NPRR, the objective is to double the economic growth rate of the last decade, reform some key sectors for economic and social development, and increase public investment to 3 per cent of GDP.

2021 will be an important year for Italy: as we further our efforts to overcome the pandemic and its disruptive effects, we will start implementing the NPPR. We will also contribute to international efforts within the framework of the Global Health Summit (which will be hosted in Italy), take up the presidency of the G20, and co-chair the COP26 on climate change.

The pandemic presents a fundamental challenge that we will have to tackle in full solidarity with our European partners. Only in this way can Italy rejuvenate its economy, promote social inclusion, and preserve our fundamental values.

Vincenzo Amendola is the Italian minister for European affairs and an ECFR Council Member.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of its individual authors.

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