Brussels - Partial payment of the third installment. But only for the part relating to student beds. Five hundred million to be transferred to subsequent tranches. Preferably the fifth. The EU Commission thus attempts the last mediation with the Italian government to try to accelerate on the 19 billion of the Pnrr relating to the objectives for the second half of 2022.
That money has now been at a standstill since March 1st. The delay is gigantic. Almost five months. Concern in the Palazzo Berlaymont offices is starting to reach very high peaks. The fear that Rome will choose a line of incomprehensible rigidity winds its way through the desk that deals with our country's National Recovery and Resilience Plan.
The latest attempt at an agreement was then placed on the table. Contacts with the Italian executive and the minister for relations with the European Union, Raffaele Fitto, have been in progress for a few days. The green light has not yet arrived from Palazzo Chigi, but for Ursula von der Leyen's technicians this is the only way out of the impasse. And to put an end to a tug of war that is becoming more and more unsustainable day by day.
The idea, then, is to suspend only the part relating to beds for university students. All the other "targets" are taken for granted. According to the Commission, however, one cannot turn a blind eye to that vacant and unfulfilled part. It is actually just over 500 million out of an amount of 19 billion. The suggested mediation consists in deferring the payment of this half a billion. A share that would therefore not be lost. The ploy would focus on transforming the "target" (quantitative goal) into a "milestone" (qualitative, less concrete goal) in an agreed manner. At that point, the Italian government would have another six months to update the documents on this specific point and recover the amount in the fifth tranche, i.e. next year. The compromise indicated by Brussels would make it possible to give the green light immediately to the tranche and ensure the "transfer" of 18.5 billion as early as September.
Faced with the reluctance of Rome, which considers the "cut" as damage to its image also with respect to the markets and a blow to its credibility, von der Leyen's staff pointed out that if there were greater "condescension" on the part of the Commission, the consequences would be even more risky. Why? Because everyone knows that for some time the European Court of Auditors has been targeting the Italian Pnrr and the moves of the "Melonian" team. In the absence of all the necessary documents, then, the chances that this accounting control body will block the payment are very high. In that case, then, the Treasury would be forced to repay the money later. The reputational impact at that point would become gigantic. A worse fool than accepting this minimum deduction with an extended payment.
Moreover, Rome's problems with the Pnrr are causing increasing alarm. The requested changes to the fourth tranche will inevitably slow down its payment until at least December. Palazzo Chigi may therefore find itself faced with a sort of "traffic jam" in which neither the 19 billion of the third nor the 16 of the fourth are paid. Although at the moment the Treasury has no liquidity problems, if both installments were postponed to 2024, a "gap" of about ten billion (the amount of the so-called "grants") would be created.
In short, a stubborn line that is judged unreasonable. Also in the light of Palazzo Chigi's decision to formulate the overall revision of the Pnrr in August. With an inevitable knock-on effect for all payments.
«The questions relating to the third and fourth installments - Fitto said yesterday - are exclusively questions connected to the choices and indications of the previous government. Rather than coming here and arguing with the previous government, we are working to find solutions." The fact remains that the choice at this point lies solely with the Italian government.