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THE EURO ZONE ·

The German politician told the Spanish daily that she was "very worried" about the lack of transparency over how the country is using its chunk of Next Gen funds

Monday, 20 February 2023, 19:37

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'We will go to Spain because the government doesn't tell us where the [EU's Next Generation] recovery funds are." These were the fighting words of Monika Hohlmeier, Chairwoman of the EU Parliament's Committee on Budgetary Control, in an interview with ABC newspaper late last month.

Taking a rather different line from the EU Commission, which has praised Spain for its efficiency in implementing its post-pandemic recovery plans, the German politician told the Spanish daily that she was "very worried" about the lack of transparency over how the country is using its chunk of Next Gen funds, 70 billion euros of which will take the form of non-repayable grants.

But how concerned is she, really? In an interview this week with EURACTIV, an online news outlet specialising in EU affairs, Hohlmeier said her forthcoming visit to Madrid "does not imply that we have any suspicion or doubts about the implementation of the Spanish [spending] plan". She neglected to explain how that's compatible with also being "very worried" about the destination of Spain's EU money, forgetting that mere mortals, unlike politicians, don't operate at this virtuoso level of doublespeak.

Hohlmeier, a member of Bavaria's conservative Christian Social Union and the European People's Party, will visit the Spanish capital next week, apparently to try and ascertain what exactly the government is using the Next Gen funds for. According to EURACTIV, her trip has prompted criticism from the Socialists and Democrats (SDP), the EU Parliament's leading centre-left force, which claims that Hohlmeier is biased against the leftist coalition and is intent on showing Pedro Sánchez in a less-than-flattering light.

Expressing concern about the efficiency with which Spain is spending its Next Gen money isn't, by itself, indicative of a partisan attitude (although it's perfectly compatible with one, of course). Actually, you'd have to be almost unconditionally devoted to Sánchez & Co. NOT to wonder where exactly all this cash is going or what it's being used for. As I've commented here on several occasions, the IMF has echoed Hohlemeier's concerns and the computer system that's meant to log disbursements of Next Gen money from the Spanish government still isn't ready. Neither is there any concrete evidence of the digitalisation that Sánchez assures us is sweeping the country.

Hohlmeier did have some words of encouragement for the SDP and Sánchez ahead of her visit, though. It's not just Spain she's worried about, she revealed in the interview with EURACTIV: "My statement that we do not know what happened with the [Next Gen] money in Spain is equally applicable to other member states." This suggests that the fundamental problem actually lies with the EU Commission. Well that's alright then!

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