The Commission has approved the modification of seven Operational Programmes (OP) for the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) in Italy and Spain under REACT-EU for a total of over €1.8 billion. In Spain, the ERDF Operational Programme for the Region of Murcia will be topped up with an additional €218 million. These resources will be mainly invested to strengthen the health system by, for example, the purchase of respirators, protective equipment and IT devices to reinforce the capacity to respond to the crisis. Resources will also support digitalisation of the administration. The region of Navarra will receive an additional amount of €95m ERDF funds.
In addition to supporting the health system to fight the pandemic, these resources will be used to increase digital connectivity and the digitalisation of the public administration. Moreover, the money will be invested to increase energy efficiency and climate risk prevention and management. The ESF OP in the Balearic Islands will receive an additional €67m to help the most vulnerable people at risk of exclusion, the unemployed, young people and women in finding jobs through personalised support. This will include job-orientation counselling and tailored opportunities for skills development. The region of Ceuta will receive additional resources of almost €14m ERDF funds. This money will contribute to the transition to a digital economy with actions to upgrade technology infrastructures in the public sector and support SMEs in the form of working capital and investment support in sectors with high job creation potential. The ESF OP in Cantabria will receive an additional €4.5m to help the self-employed maintain their activity. In Italy, the National Operational Programme ‘Research and Innovation’ will receive additional resources of € 1.1bn of ESF funding. These resources help to reinforce the resilience and the capacity of the health system, improve access to tertiary education and improve human capital.
Concrete measures include specialised trainings for doctors in medicine, support for scholarships to students from low-income families, reduction of university fees and provision of specialised trainings in the fields of innovation as well as the green and digital transition. The National Operational Programme for Networks and Infrastructures will receive an additional amount of € 322m of ERDF funds. These resources will foster environmental sustainability by reducing losses in the water distribution network in Southern Italy. REACT-EU is part of NextGenerationEU and provides €50.6bn additional funding (in current prices) over the course of 2021 and 2022 to Cohesion policy programmes.