Italy in bitter EU row: Brussels threatens to withhold £172bn of Rome’s bailout funds

Varoufakis issues warning on ‘puny’ EU recovery fund

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Insiders say the European Commission is not satisfied with Rome’s so-called Recovery Plan to access a €200billion chunk of the bloc’s coronavirus bailout. The row could make Prime Minister Mario Draghi miss his deadline at the end of the month to submit the blueprint in order to get hold of the cash. “The plan will be presented on April 30,” his spokesman said.

EU27 nations must submit their spending plans before being allowed to request funds from the bloc’s €750billion coronavirus recovery fund.

Rome is eligible for more than €200billion in grants and low-cost funds to help kickstart its pandemic-stricken economy.

But the slice, the largest of any EU countries from the war chest, will not be released until Brussels is happy with the spending plans.

A source said: “The Commission is unhappy with the Recovery Plan as it stands.”

According to Reuters, the insider claimed Mr Draghi would likely present his strategy in mid-May but it would take eurocrats much longer to analyse the plans.

Another source said there are significant concerns over the lack of detail in Rome’s spending blueprint.

Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis has already suggested a number of countries would miss the deadline to submit their recovery plans, sparking significant delays for the EU’s pandemic fund.

The top eurocrat, however, refused to single out the nations he expects to fail to publish their plans in time.

The European Commission expects countries to present a strategy for “greening” their economy and spending money on tackling climate change.

Questions have also been raised over plans set to be submitted by Bulgaria and Austria.

A spokeswoman for the Commission said it was involved in “extensive dialogue” with all member states.

She added: “The plans should be submitted by April 30.

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“We have to bear in mind the fact that these plans are difficult to draw up… a difficult task for all member states.

“So as a result, some member states might need a little bit more time to draw up their recovery and resilience plans to particularly ensure it meets the legal requirements.

“The Commission feels quality plans should be our priority and make it easier for the Commission to approve the plans and pay up the financing.”

Brussels is also concerned that a host of EU nations are still yet to ratify the necessary legislation for the bloc’s recovery fund.

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So far just 17 member states have passed the required laws.

The Austrian eurocrat warned that Germany, Estonia, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Finland, Romania, Ireland, Lithuania and the Netherlands have still not completed the process.

Top eurocrats hope to start borrowing cash in June, but can only move once all member states have ratified the required legislation.

Last year at one of the bloc’s most acrimonious summits in decades, EU leaders agreed on an unprecedented recovery fund to come to the rescue of pandemic-stricken industries and regions.

The Commission was granted special borrowing, spending and taxation powers to carry out the plan.

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