Černač says recovery plan will focus on most affected segments

Ljubljana – Presenting the national recovery and resilience plan, Development Minister Zvonko Černač has noted that the focus would be on kick-starting the activities and social systems that have been restricted and affected by the crisis. As for the lower than available amount of loans, he assured the public that funds would be secured elsewhere.

Out of the EUR 2.5 billion available under Slovenia’s plan, 43% or more than EUR 1 billion is intended for green goals and 20% or more than EUR 330 million for digital goals.

The remaining two areas are smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, in which almost EUR 750 million is planned to be invested, and healthcare and social security, which is to get EUR 364 million.

“No one will be left aside and no part of Slovenia will be neglected,” says the plan adopted by the government on Wednesday.

Černač, the head of the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy, told the press on Thursday that it was everybody’s responsibility, including of EU member states and institutions, that the European recovery mechanism got implemented as soon as possible.

He noted that the historic agreement on the entire recovery package, which in addition to the EUR 750 billion recovery fund includes the EUR 1,100 billion multi-year EU budget for 2021-2027, had been reached at the end of last June.

“It seems that it will get operational only a year after that,” Černač said, noting that in addition to the recovery and resilience plan, another condition was ratification of the own resources decisions, which Slovenia had done in January.

Turning to the Slovenian plan, the minister said measures should be adopted and implemented that enabled kick-starting of the activities that had been the most restricted and affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

Funds should also be directed towards the social systems that have turned out to be “undernourished”, and everything should be based on changes that will improve the functioning of numerous systems and provide for a fast exit from the crisis.

The minister stressed that the government had followed that in the final version of the plan, and that Slovenia would achieve these objectives with balanced reforms and investments based on the objectives of digital and green transitions.

Greater resilience and flexibility of the economy will be achieved with investments in the digital transformation of certain sectors and society as a whole in addition to cutting of red tape and strengthening of the innovation potential.

Also important will be investments in the environment, transport, energy, education, social, healthcare and other infrastructure, Černač added.

But he noted that the funds from the recovery fund would not be enough for that, although the national plan envisages the use of all EUR 1.8 billion in grants, and EUR 666 million out of the EUR 3.6 billion in available loans.

“We will focus on projects that are implementable until the end of 2026, when the mechanism runs out,” he said, while rejecting criticism that the government is giving up on the potential of the recovery fund available to Slovenia.

Both Černač and Monika Kirbiš Rojs, the state secretary at the office, noted that the conditions for borrowing as part of the mechanism were not known yet, and that it was not known whether loans would be more favourable than they are today.

The minister explained that EU member states have until August 2023 to ask to access an additional loan quota. He is convinced that Slovenia will act accordingly, regardless of who will be heading the government then.

Černač assured the press that funds would be secured from other sources, pointing to the remaining EUR 1.4 billion from the current EU budget for the 2014-2020 period, or almost EUR 1.7 billion with the national participation.

In the 2021-2027 EU budget, more than EUR 3.3 billion is available to Slovenia, or almost EUR 4.6 billion with the national contribution, and there is also EUR 400 million from the ReactEU mechanism, funds from the Just Transition Fund, he added.

According to Černač, Slovenia will send the national recovery and resilience plan to the European Commission by Friday, and the Commission will have two months to assess it. It needs to get final approval from the EU Council.

Under the best-case scenario, funds will be operational as of September, so that the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy could immediately start confirming projects and tenders after that.

Tenders will be prepared by relevant ministries, while a new body affiliated to the Finance Ministry will be in charge of coordinating the plan and reporting to the European Commission. The body will become operational not later than on 1 August.

Slovenia counts on a total of EUR 12 billion in funds from various EU funds and mechanisms until 2030, of which EUR 9 billion is expected to be in grants.