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Shifting of EU regional funds to tackle Covid-19 approved

Proposal has been signed off, and regional authorities are already making plans

The EU has formally approved a proposal to allow all of its remaining regional cohesion funds for 2020—up to €60 billion—to be devoted to tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Funding which would otherwise have been allocated to other activities, including research and innovation, could now be redirected to Covid-19—including to research on the disease.

Ordinarily, about 30 per cent of cohesion funding is spent on innovation, and 10-20 per cent on R&D.

“These unprecedented measures will help alleviate the burden on national budgets by providing targeted investment in healthcare, struggling small and medium-sized enterprises, and temporary employment schemes,” the Council of the EU said on 22 April, the day it approved the proposal.

Some member states and their regional authorities are already making plans to redirect their funds.

A spokesperson for the national government of Poland, which is the biggest recipient of regional funding, told Research Professional News that authorities there will use the funding to tackle the pandemic “as far as possible”, given that some restrictions on the use of the funds remain in force, such as state aid rules.

Polish authorities “hope that EU funds will become an important element supporting the fight against Covid-19”, the spokesperson said, citing low-interest loans for entrepreneurs as an example area of use.

The country has already allocated PLN 550 million (€121m) of regional funding to Covid-19, the spokesperson said, of which PLN 200m is being used for work on diagnostics, treatment and prevention.

A spokesperson for the federal government of Germany, which is the fifth biggest recipient of EU regional funds, said the country’s regional authorities are “examining to what extent they will use the new possibility”.

“It is too early to say how funding will be reallocated in the regional programmes and to what extent this will influence ongoing projects,” they said. But they added that projects already approved “won’t be modified” by the new measures, and that “no projects that were granted funding will suffer cuts”.