The EESC stresses the importance of transparent and regular updates on progress in implementing Recovery and Resilience Plans (RRPs) in the Member States, and calls for procedures to be simplified and for targeted assistance to be provided to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It also calls for greater flexibility in project selection, structured involvement of organised civil society, and compulsory monitoring committees. To sum up, here are the main conclusions of the EESC's evaluation report on the mid-term implementation of the RRF.
Challenges and opportunities
The EESC's evaluation highlights several key points concerning the effectiveness of this instrument and its relevance in achieving its objectives, as well as the involvement and added value of social partners and civil society organisations (organised civil society) in its implementation.
Effectiveness of the RRF: the report notes that while the vast majority of respondents viewed investment as having been implemented most successfully, there are significant delays in the implementation of the RRPs across all pillars. Organised civil society is concerned that the plans cannot be properly implemented in the long term due to delays in the absorption of funds, limited duration of plans and lack of administrative capacity in Member States. Furthermore, excessive requirements and red tape were cited as obstacles to SMEs accessing RRF funds.
Relevance of the instrument in achieving its objectives: organised civil society views the six pillars and their objectives as relevant and this tool as offering opportunities to encourage investment and reform in Member States, which would not have been the case without it. However, there are concerns about the alignment between the expected impact of the RRF and national strategies. It is therefore essential to ensure better strategic alignment and coordination between them.
The involvement and added value of social partners and civil society organisations:
Organised civil society deplores the lack of transparency in the process of defining and implementing the plan, and calls for structured and transparent dialogue, feedback loops and proactive involvement by means of an active monitoring committee explains EESC rapporteur Elena Calistru. There is a lack of a robust institutional framework for conducting consultations and involving organised civil society in the development and implementation of the RRPs. In addition, the lack of public information on the implementation of plans is a persistent problem, with almost half of those interviewed highlighting a lack of access to up-to-date information from national authorities on reforms, investments and related costs.
Recommendations for improvement
Based on the feedback from stakeholders, the report provides several recommendations to address identified challenges and enhance the RRF's effectiveness and relevance. Here are the main ones:
Improved access to and updating of information: the EESC stresses the need for regular, updated, better quality, timely and consistent information on the progress of RRPs. This includes detailed information on intermediate and final beneficiaries, covering at least the total amount of the contract and the scope and conclusion.
Streamlining project implementation: the EESC calls on the Commission and national governments to simplify procedures, reduce bureaucracy and provide support to ensure effective and speedy implementation, particularly for SMEs.
Enhanced flexibility: the EESC calls for greater flexibility in the section of projects, the allocation of funds and timelines to adapt to changing circumstances and emerging needs. Organised civil society advocates an extension of the implementation period to ensure that all funds are used effectively.
Monitoring and evaluation: the Committee highlights the importance of establishing more effective, mandatory monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to assess the sustainability and long-term impact of the RRF, in which organised civil society must actively participate.