Large Catalan Companies Ask For A Clear Legal Framework For EU Funds To Avoid Litigation

European funds are just around the corner, Spain has already received 9,000 million euros of the 140,000 million committed by Europe, but they still lack a clear legal framework to avoid future litigation . The interest of companies in accessing these grants is high (according to CaixaBank , in just one month, its platform for Next Generation has had 7,000 entries and 500 forms), but the uncertainty is also great, given the difficulty in knowing the different grants, where to go, the differences in procedures between the Autonomous Communities, the complexity of the bureaucracy or what will happen to failed projects.

Faced with this scenario,the large Catalan companies ask for a clear legal framework, simplification of processes and a single window . However, La Moncloa has enabled a page to give access to the calls for aid.

This is one of the conclusions drawn from the second roundtable held at the conference organized this Tuesday by elEconomista in Barcelona under the title ‘Next Generation, Catalunya’. Carmen Urraca, director of European funds at Banco Sabadell ; Silvia Sanjoaquín, Director of New Business Development at Naturgy ; Albert Triola, CEO of Oracle Spain; Manuel Cermerón, CEO of Agbar; Carmen Espinosa, Global Head of New Business, Initiatives and coordinator of Next Generation projects at Cellnex ; Isabel Buesa, territorial directorEndesa Catalonia; and José Manuel García Trany, director of business development for CaixaBank in the Territorial Management of Barcelona.

“The clock is ticking and we still do not have a defined roadmap,” said the CEO of Agbar, Manuel Cermerón, in this regard. Silvia Sanjoaquín, from Naturgy, pointed out that access to funds is being difficult for companies, because they do not know where to go to request the aid, so she considered necessary a simplification of the procedures and something similar to a single window.

“There is another important issue, a clear legal framework, there are certain projects that are going to have a duration of 10 or 15 years. If I have to invest certain millions over 20 years without having a clear legal framework, in the end I will not invest. bureaucratic simplification, a single window and a clear regulatory framework are essential because if not, neither will aid be requested nor will it be invested, “he said.

In this area, José Manuel García Trany, from CaixaBank, pointed out that it is necessary to reduce as much as possible the bureaucratic processes to speed up the funds reaching companies, SMEs and the self-employed, but especially within short access times. Likewise, he assured that it is still unknown what will happen at the level of defaults if finally the projects that benefit from these funds are failed, however he stressed that here the bank will also have to do an analysis role to see the viability of projects and be prudent in the face of risk.

Carmen Espinosa, from Cellnex, acknowledged that there are no general rules in each call, but that they are specificAlthough Cermerón, despite the difficulties, called for action because by regulating excessively, mechanisms are paralyzed. “You have to be very aware of how we play it, it is not easy, but that is why we are here.

I would not put myself in that position, even if there is litigation, but hopefully it will be 5% or 10% of the base and that we can execute projects. You have to make decisions and move forward, although everything can be improved, “he said. Regarding the clear differences that there will be between the CCAA in the distribution of funds, Albert Triola, from Oracle, added that everything that is complicated will serve as an excuse between the administrations to blame each other. “I see how the CCAA funds have been divided and it is complex,” he said.

Despite the handicaps that there will be in the access and execution of these funds, the large Catalan companies are already prepared to start the recovery through these grants , some with specific plans, others speeding up projects that were already on their roadmaps and, financial entities, facilitating the arrival to the business fabric.

The Sabadell board of directors, Carmen Urraca, assured that the bank’s philosophy is to accompany clients to make a “strategic reflection for the future”, since with the pandemic there are many projects that have remained in the drawer and this is the moment of removing them, they must also have the plan prepared with a feasibility study behind it.

“It is important that they are defined, because the calls come out with short deadlines and there is no capacity to travel,” he said. Likewise, he assured that from the side of the banking sector there will be a multiplier effect of the aid. “Our business is financing and we will complement with it the execution of projects, of each public euro that is going to be given, another three will be generated, and there the banks have an important multiplying role,” he said.

Also in the financial field, José Manuel García Trany, from CaixaBank, highlighted the importance of funds, noting that it is the first time in history that Spain has the opportunity to emerge from a crisis with aid that will allow the system to be transformed productive. Here, the bank must be able to transmit and channel the Next GenerationThrough its capillarity to reach all customers (companies, SMEs or freelancers) through its infrastructure and also to promote projects complementing them with financing or guarantees.

In addition, there is another part, the commitment, to help companies access funds, with advice on processing and eliminating bureaucracy. “The funds that we are going to receive from Europe are equivalent to the total funds that Spain has received in 30 years, that which has been done in three decades, it must be done in three years,” he said.

Transformation axes
Silvia Sanjoaquín, from Naturgy, assured that the company is clear about the three axes of transformation: ecological transition, digital transformation and, in the energy field, accelerating plans already planned such as the production of green hydrogen. “There are many common funds that are added to those of Europe and we will have to play with that analysis at the regional, national and European level”, he stressed. In addition, he pointed out that they work with a clear roadmap that is based on three axes.

One of them on renewable gases, another at the level of digitization to integrate said gases and in the field of renewable energy, highlighted the line of energy storage or offshore wind, with which they analyze projects in the north of Spain. In the mobility line, there are already open calls and projects will be presented shortly.

Albert Triola, CEO of Oracle Spain, stressed that the funds are an opportunity for companies to digitize, although they must also do so with or without aid, because it is an opportunity for the future. Likewise, he stressed that there are three common denominators in digitization: giving visibility to the data , which will grow exponentially and will bring new data to get the most out of customer management and attract new ones. The second is the improvement of the efficiency of operational management and finally the incorporation of tools such as Artificial Intelligence or the blockchainto improve the company. In addition, Triola assured that the funds are not only an opportunity for the digital transformation of private companies, but also for the Administration itself.

The CEO of Agbar, Manuel Cermerón, explained that funds should also be used in the context of climate change, because in Spain there is water stress and solutions must be provided to it, such as water reuse systems. He also recalled that for many of the sustainable projects, such as the generation of green hydrogen, water is needed (10 tons of water for each ton of hydrogen). “In a space with this stress, technology can already be wonderful, but if there is a lack of water there is a serious problem,” he stressed. “There will be no PERTE, and even so we cannot afford not to advance, we must look for alternative strategies,” he said. Cermerón added that climate change has a local effect and each territory needs a different approach.

Carmen Espinosa, from Cellnex, underlined that the company is working on three blocks of projects: digital connectivity in mobility, connected cars and infrastructures for quantum cybersecurity. In this regard, he said that Cellnex is preparing all the projects in this regard for when the aid comes out, with 50 initiatives in Spain, among which he highlighted mobility plans in rural areas, modernization of national and cross-border rail corridors, provision of infrastructure for the future connected car or position Spain as a European benchmark in quantum cybersecurity.

Isabel Buesa, from Endesa Cataluña, assured that the company she represents is quite reflected in the fund’s strategy and as a national operator they have three areas of activity. One of them is the generation, who try to decarbonize it. The second is in the field of distribution, in which they seek to digitize the network, integrate it in terms of renewables and also help customers to electrify demand, both industries and consumers. Finally, in commercialization, the commitment is to digitize the demand. In this regard, he assured that to promote the private use of electric cars, consumers must be made aware, starting with company fleets, which serves as a stimulus to private ones.”This works best when there is an administrative simplification that can make this more accessible,” he added.

Avoid public debt
On the other hand, the speakers also stressed that companies and the Government are more interested in subsidies than in the 70,000 million aid through loans because the former do not have to be repaid and the latter do. The CaixaBank representative highlighted that the Administration’s indebtedness could ultimately imply changes in fiscal policies . “We have 70,000 million that we are going to transfer to the economic system, if we exhaust them we must go to other ways, the market will balance you and it will take you to a point where the State has to request the 70,000 million of credit,” he said.

Regarding why the aid is going to be spent when there are cohesion funds that are not being requested, Trany assured that this time the funds allow to change the productive system and eliminate great inequalities. Sanjoaquín added that the previous funds contemplated a specific value chain, and according to Espinosa, in this case the aid has a global vision. Carmen Urraca added that they are “very transversal” because they are aimed at both companies and individuals.

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