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For a sustainable recovery of Italy

    An hour with Enrico Giovannini, Minister of Sustainable Infrastructure and Mobility
    • Meeting in digital format
    • 31 March 2021

          Not just a flash in the pan, but a medium to long term boon: the post-pandemic recovery could be described in terms of strategic factors such as economic, social, environmental and institutional sustainability. In other words, the basic points of the European Commission’s 2030 agenda, which the Italian government has taken as the basis for its National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR).

          What must be avoided, on the other hand, over the medium to long term, is a return to the low growth of the pre-pandemic era. The PNRR must be used to pursue goals such as social sustainability and prosperity that are not measurable according to the sole criterion of GDP. The aim must be to rescue the country from the worst of crises and put it back on the path to higher than pre-Covid-19 growth rates. In other words, truly making “resilience a compass for EU policies”. National policies must foster a transformation toward a more ecological and equitable system. Indeed, ecological transition is key to the recovery, along with efforts to redress those socioeconomic imbalances that the pandemic has exacerbated. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) must also complete their transition to sustainability, first and foremost by adopting non-financial reporting.

          Overall, the Recovery Plan earmarks 50 billion euro for infrastructure. Projects aspiring to be funded by the plan must be completed within 2026 and be operational within the same year. Moreover, they will be judged not only in terms of their estimated costs, but also of the benefit they generate for citizens. Above all, a project must not damage the environment in any significant way.

          While the EU will not consider proposals for the construction of new roads, it does encourage projects that propose to use technology to upgrade road safety. Projects submitted for the ecological modernization of existing road networks include solar panels for “Autogrill” highway rest stops, the installation of recharging points for electric cars and the development of intermodality – a series of endeavours that could amount to as much as 3.3 billion euro. Also being encouraged is the transfer of both commercial and other traffic from road to rail, which will not be enough, however, to boost a railway system in need also of a stronger intermodal system – and that calls for new rules.

          Development and sustainable recovery also presuppose the kind of fruitful public/private cooperation where the public side provides guarantees over the medium to long-term and the private side brings efficiency and money; added to this must be cooperation on innovation. Milan, in particular, is creating an integrated ecosystem whose value and excellence are attracting numerous foreign investments. With 30% of Italian manufacturers having managed to get back underway, 40% holding on by a thread and 30% in severe difficulty, relief could come precisely from PNRR projects that pave the way to a volume of production that surpasses even the vision of the Next Generation EU.

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