The European Commission has approved the modification of 10 operational programmes in Portugal, redirecting a total of more than €1 billion of EU Cohesion policy funds, namely the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Cohesion Fund (CF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). Along with a temporary increase of the EU co-financing rate to 100% for Cohesion policy projects tackling the coronavirus pandemic, these modifications will enable the country to face the adverse effects of the coronavirus crisis on the economy supporting its recovery. Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said: “As many other countries in Europe, thanks to these modifications, Portugal and its outermost regions will boost their socio-economic and health recovery. Commission’s fast and comprehensive response to the coronacrisis shows that when we cooperate and stand united, we are stronger and able to face unexpected challenges.”
This comprehensive approach will support Portugal on several fronts:
- Public investments in social areas
This includes coronavirus response measures in education and health (for example, the purchase of tests and personal protective equipment). As regards specifically the school infrastructure, the modification approved will contribute to remove remaining asbestos structures in public schools that are a threat to public health.
- Support of the digitalisation of schools
The situation caused by the coronavirus crisis has made much more visible the need for further investments in digitalisation of the education systems, in particular to ensure pupils’ participation in online classes and digital equipment and resources.
- Support for the economy
This includes, in particular, support for innovation for coronavirus-related solutions as well as support to SMEs to be able to adapt to the new situation along with a further sustain of the tourism sector and cultural activities.
These are the first amendments to the operational programmes for Portugal, concerning seven regions (Algarve, Azores, Centro, Lisbon, Madeira, Norte, Alentejo) and three national programmes (Compete, SEUR, Technical Assistance).
The modifications are possible thanks to the exceptional flexibility under the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) and Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+) which allow Member States to use Cohesion policy funding to support the most exposed sectors because of the pandemic, such as healthcare, SMEs and labour markets.