Portugal unveils plan to speed up spending of EU recovery funds

Portugal intends to speed up the rate at which it spends money from the Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP), the country’s roadmap for using EU post-pandemic recovery funds, Portugal’s new Prime Minister Luis Montenegro said on Thursday, describing the current spending rate as “very low” and wanting to increase transparency in accessing the funds.

“We must strongly accelerate this exceptional opportunity to improve the lives of the Portuguese,” Montenegro (The Democratic Alliance, AD) warned at the debate on the programme of his right-of-centre coalition government.

“In the third and fourth RRP payment requests submitted to Brussels, the European authorities withheld €713 million because the contracted targets were not met”, he added.

Portugal’s new prime minister also announced that the request to release this amount will be submitted “within the next 60 days” and that the fifth payment request, which “should have been submitted but was not”, would be submitted “within the next 90 days.”

Portugal has “very low execution rates” when it comes to EU funds, Montenegro said, pointing out that the country has spent only 0.5% of the €23 billion in EU development funds between 2021 and 2027, as planned in the state’s “Portugal 2030” plan, while it has only spent 20% of the RRP funds to date, despite being halfway through implementation, which is due to end in 2026.

At the same time, Montenegro said that “the means of combating fraud and corruption in the application of European funds” will be strengthened and “transparency in the application of funds will be reinforced” by making it compulsory to publicise the funds in the national and local press, an amendment to the law that will be implemented in the next Council of Ministers.

“In the first week of this government’s term, a joint order has already been signed that calls for tenders to increase the number of inspectors specialising in this fight by 60%,” he announced.

“We need to do it quickly, but well.”