Spain’s prime minister said Wednesday unity at both the national and European Union levels would be key for the country and continent to overcome the unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pedro Sanchez also insisted his government would successfully implement the 140-billion euros allocated to Spain by the EU for its pandemic response and recovery.
The leader of the Spanish government made the remarks during a conversation with the president of Agencia Efe, Gabriela Cañas, at the opening of a forum on “European funds, the key to recovery” hosted by KPMG and Spain’s national press agency.
“Unity saves companies, unity saves jobs, and without a doubt what it does is it saves lives,” Sanchez said while discussing how prepared his country was to administer and distribute European Union funds allocated to Spain for its pandemic response.
Spain has been one of the worst-affected countries in the EU by Covid-19. During the first wave in March 2020, the country had some of the highest infection and death rates in Europe, while its economy, which is heavily reliant on foreign tourism that all but disappeared in 2020, has been severely damaged.
After months of bickering and division between member states, an unprecedented recovery fund worth 750 billion euro was approved at an EU summit in July.
Spain has been allocated 140 billion euros from that fund over the next six years.
But Critics have accused the government of being unable to effectively manage the funds, saying the country has only been able to absorb 38 percent.
“It is a half-truth," said Sanchez, who insisted that Spain "implements everything" and “has not returned a single euro” to Brussels, although he acknowledged that the funds are not always executed on time.
By working closely with civil society and the private sector, the prime minister said that the country is ready and able to effectively “integrate” the funds as part of an effort to revamp and modernize the country’s economy, which was already struggling before the pandemic struck.
"Spain is capable, not only with its companies, but also with its highly qualified public officials, to be able to manage the funds in an optimal way", he emphasized.
“The key is not only to address the ecological and digital transition,” Sanchez said, but that “groups that could be seen as the most vulnerable see that this (fund) can represent an enormous opportunity for progress and employability.”
The prime minister highlighted that, above all, the funds were an “unequivocal commitment” to the single market, which he called one of the EU’s “biggest achievements”.
“What we could not accept was to have a single market in which we have first, second or third class countries,” he said while praising the “positive response” that Brussels and his own government have made to the three-pronged health, social and economic crisis. EFE-EPA