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European Commission endorses Sweden’s €3.3B recovery and resilience plan

The European Commission has adopted a positive assessment of Sweden’s recovery and resilience plan. This is a key step paving the way for the EU to disburse €3.3 billion in grants to Sweden under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). This financing will support the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Sweden’s recovery and resilience plan. It will play a crucial role in enabling Sweden to emerge stronger from the coronavirus pandemic.

The RRF is the key instrument at the heart of NextGenerationEU. It will provide up to €800 billion (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across the EU. The Swedish plan forms part of an unprecedented coordinated EU response to the coronavirus crisis, to address common European challenges by embracing the green and digital transitions, to strengthen economic and social resilience and the cohesion of the single market.

The Commission assessed Sweden’s plan based on the criteria set out in the RRF Regulation. The Commission’s analysis considered, in particular, whether the investments and reforms contained in Sweden’s plan support the green and digital transitions; contribute to effectively addressing challenges identified in the European Semester; and strengthen its growth potential, job creation and economic and social resilience.

Securing Sweden’s green and digital transition
The Commission’s assessment finds that Sweden’s plan devotes 44.4% of its total allocation on measures that support climate objectives. Sweden has announced an ambitious target for achieving climate neutrality by 2045. Through a combination of reforms and investments the plan makes an important contribution to reach this target, addressing each of the most emitting sectors in turn, namely energy, housing, industry and transport. The Swedish plan includes investments to support the low carbon and energy transitions, as well as sustainable infrastructure. In particular, the green transition is supported by broad subsidy schemes aimed at speeding up the decarbonisation of industry and transport via the promotion of investment in the development and application of innovative technologies for fossil-free solutions.  Reforms include promoting decarbonisation by requiring fuel suppliers to blend in sustainable biofuels in gasoline, diesel and jet fuel and adjusting the taxation of company cars in order to better reflect the costs of private car ownership.

The Commission’s assessment of Sweden’s plan finds that it devotes 20.5% of its total allocation on measures that support the digital transition. This includes a digital component providing for the acceleration of the roll out of high-speed broadband in sparsely populated areas and the further digitalisation of the public administration, including a joint digital infrastructure. Moreover, the plan also includes measures to foster digital skills and to make best use of the synergies between the green and digital twin transition, for instance in the area of smart energy.

Reinforcing Sweden’s economic and social resilience
Sweden’s plan includes an extensive set of mutually reinforcing reforms and investments that contribute to effectively addressing all or a significant subset of the economic and social challenges outlined in the country-specific recommendations addressed to Sweden. In the healthcare area, the Swedish plan includes measures to increase the accessibility and capacity of the health care system, in particular through training of elderly care providers, increasing the number of study places in Vocational Education and Training , with a focus on health and social care, and through introducing a protected title for assistant nurses. The plan also contains several targeted reforms and investments to enhance education and skills developments through both increasing the number of training opportunities and study places, focusing on individuals who currently have difficulties finding employment. The Swedish plan also includes measures that ease the housing shortage by supplying new rental dwellings with a lower rent.

Moreover, the plan is expected to reduce the risk of money laundering in the financial system through measures that strengthen effective supervision and enforcement of the anti-money laundering framework. Coupled with measures to underpin the green and digital ambitions, to modernise employment protection legislation and to ensure a viable pension system, this can be expected to provide further incentives to scale up human capital and help address the changing skills’ needs in Sweden, especially in the context of the digital and green transition.

The plan represents an overall balanced response to the economic and social situation of Sweden, thereby contributing appropriately to all six pillars of the RRF Regulation.

Supporting flagship investment and reform projects
Sweden’s plan proposes projects in various European flagship areas. These are specific investment projects, which address issues that are common to all Member States in areas that create jobs and growth and are needed for the green and digital transition.

For instance, Sweden has proposed to provide support of €811 million for local and regional climate investments and to provide €286 million toward the decarbonisation of industrial processes to support the green transition. To support the digital transition, almost €464 million will be invested in the rollout of rapid broadband services and €123 million will be invested to support the development of digital skills as part of continuous learning and labour market reforms.

The Commission’s assessment also finds that none of the measures included in the plan significantly harms the environment, in line with the requirements laid out in the RRF Regulation.

The Commission considers that the audit and controls systems put in place by Sweden are adequate to protect the financial interests of the Union. The plan provides sufficient details on how national authorities will prevent, detect and correct any instances of conflict of interest, corruption and fraud relating to the use of funds.

CT Bureau

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