France in line for €40 billion handout from EU’s €750 billion Covid recovery fund

France is set to receive the first tranche of a total of €40 billion grant from the EU’s €750 billion Covid-19 recovery package as soon as next month, a year after the 'historic' rescue plan was hammered out at a marathon 96-hour summit.

France in line for €40 billion handout from EU's €750 billion Covid recovery fund
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at a press conference on the Next Generation EU fund. Photo: Tomas Benedikovic | AFP

France is one of 10 EU countries to have had its Covid recovery plan approved by the European Commission. In total, 24 countries have submitted dossiers outlining how they would spend their money. 

The fund, known as Next Generation EU, was set up to help countries climb out of economic downturns caused by the pandemic. 

As a condition for receiving a slice of the financial package, the Commission said 37 percent of any funds received must be invested in measures that support climate objectives, while 20 percent must be used to develop digital technology and infrastructure. 

France set its bar higher still, with 50 percent of its allotted sum to be spent on climate issues and 25 percent set aside for digital transition.

Nearly €6 billion of France’s €40 billion grant will be spent on energy efficiency technology and nationwide improvements, €6.5 billion on improving the transport infrastructure, €5 billion on developing green energy, and €10 billion on the country’s digital network.

The first third of the money could be released as early as next month following what is expected to be a rubber-stamping exercise at a meeting of all 27 European finance ministers scheduled for July 13th.

It has taken nearly a year to reach this stage. The historic deal allowing the Commission to borrow money on the financial markets was agreed after a four-day and four-night summit last July. The legislation was agreed at an EU level in December. It then had to be approved by all 27 Parliaments – Austria and Poland were the last to ratify the deal at the end of May.

Germany’s Constitutional Court also had to have a say after the country’s far-right AfD argued the fund breached EU treaties. Judges rejected the AfD’s position.

A key element of the fund is the €672.5 billion Recovery and Resilience Facility. Up to €312.5 billion of this will be handed out as grants and €360 billion as loans. 

Italy will receive the largest share of the fund – €191.5 billion, made up of €68.9billion in grants and the rest in loans. Spain is set to receive €69.5 billion, Greece €30.5 billion, and Germany €25.6 billion.

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France to build new floating terminal to ensure gas supplies this winter

The French government aims to have its natural gas storage reserves at full capacity by autumn, with European countries bracing for supply cuts from major supplier Russia as the Ukraine war continues, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Thursday

France to build new floating terminal to ensure gas supplies this winter

“We are ensuring the complete filling of our storage capacities, aiming to be close to 100 percent by early autumn,” and France will also build a new floating methane terminal to receive more energy supplies by ship, Borne said.

France is much less dependant on Russian gas than its neighbours, and announced earlier this week that it has not received any Russian gas by pipeline since June 15th.

Meanwhile Germany moved closer to rationing natural gas on Thursday as it raised the alert level under an emergency plan after Russia slashed supplies to the country.

“Gas is now a scarce commodity in Germany,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck told reporters at a press conference.

French PM Borne on Thursday also confirmed that the bouclier tarifaire (price shield) will remain in pace until the end of 2022 – this freezes the price of household gas and limits rises in electricity bills for homes to four percent.