The National Recovery and Resilience Plans are key to the delivery of the €750 billion economic-recovery package agreed by the European Council in July 2020. These plans are supposed to support such goals as the green transition and digital transformation. Many have suggested that after the pandemic there can be no ‘return to normal’. It has cast a sharper retrospective light on the atrophying effects of austerity on the public sphere, already evident from the eurozone crisis. At the same time, awareness of the urgency of dealing with catastrophic climate change and biodiversity loss is increasing.
Most national recovery plans were submitted in April and May 2021 and have been undergoing an approval process. So it is timely to ask whether they meet these concerns and whether they cohere in such a way as to add up to a European recovery that builds back better. The plans and the way they have been institutionalised raise a range of questions addressed in the series of articles. They include:
- Will plans genuinely foster a just transition to a ‘new normal’ or merely provide a rhetorical—even ‘greenwashing’—gloss on orthodox, carbon-intensive programmes and projects?
- Will they be aligned with, and help realise, the Action Plan of the European Pillar of Social Rights?
- Will they have a significant redistributional effect across EU member states?
- How are the fears in ‘frugal’ northern countries, that monies may be disbursed with inadequate controls, being addressed? How does the conditionality work in practice, against not just economic but also social and ecological criteria?
- Looking ahead, what lessons can be learned as to how the EU can develop as a collective economic actor? What are the longer-run implications for the EU budget and the union’s ‘own resources’.
This project does not scrutinise each plan but rather approaches the challenge thematically, with authors adducing individual plans as evidence as appropriate.