Its name is CEF – Connecting Europe Facility, and the European Parliament has just given its green light to invest €33.7 billion for the next 7 years, to bring Europe to the forefront of digital connections. Which not only concern tlc, but also transport and energy sectors. The funding will be managed by the European Agency INEA – Innovation and Networks Executive Agency, which will operate with direct funding of selected projects on a competitive basis and in connection with member countries. The race for the future is open between member countries.
The European Union has a plan to equip Europe with modern and highly efficient infrastructure that contributes to the interconnection and integration of the Union and all its regions in the transport, telecommunications and energy sectors.
These interconnections are essential for the free movement of people, goods, capital and services. Trans-European networks foster cross-border connections, promote greater economic, social and territorial cohesion and contribute to a more competitive social market economy and the fight against climate change.
The vision is that of a Europe that moves towards zero deaths, zero emissions and zero paper mobility, to become a world leader in the renewable energy sector and to be at the forefront of the digital economy. A modern, clean, smart, sustainable, inclusive and secure infrastructure will provide tangible benefits to European businesses and citizens by enabling them to travel, transport goods and have access to high-quality digital and energy services effectively.
To this end, the CEF supports investments in transport, energy and digital infrastructure through the development of trans-European networks (TENs). According to the proposal, in the period 2021-2027 it should also promote cross-border cooperation in terms of energy production from renewable sources.
The CEF focuses on projects with very high European added value and catalyzes investments in projects with cross-border effects and in interoperable systems and services at European level for which continuity of financial support after 2020 is essential. Focused on efficiency, the CEF addresses market failures and helps mobilize further investment from other sources, in particular from the private sector, in synergy and complementarity with InvestEU and other Union programs.
The political objectives
in 2018, the EU expresses the will to achieve very ambitious environmental goals, setting dates and values for the reduction of CO2 emissions. This is the flag of the current Presidency of the European Commission, led by Ursula von der Leyen.
Not too secretly, many member countries (if not all) have expressed doubts and fears about ambitions considered “Taliban”, thinking that the European economy, after the economic crisis triggered in 2008 and the one induced by the pandemic that exploded in 2020, will not have the strength to succeed.
Here we have two opposite and also quite distant views:
- On the one hand, there are those who believe that the two crises are a good opportunity to cut old and obsolete economic systems that are no longer able to face the new challenges of globalization (including that of public health) and give a competitive contribution. That could be a benefit for Europe worldwide. This group is composed by some European institutions which, in their founding statutes, have the preparation for the future.
- On the other hand, those who do not believe in a transformation of the economy without causing further destruction (of jobs, wealth for the middle classes, small, medium and large enterprises) and therefore want to be prudent, if not to pull the brake. These are the national governments, which must manage the present before they even prepare for the future. And then they think about the price that citizens and businesses should pay for a Copernican economic revolution.
It is for this reason that, alongside so many other programs, the EFC is pushed by the Commission and the European Parliament. Because it becomes a tool to help the transition, putting important financial resources where countries today have difficulty investing, due to contingent priorities. Energy, transport and telecommunications are in fact the keys to succeeding in Brussels’ intentions. Their intelligent management is the prerequisite for putting Europe at the forefront of the world. Not only in the fight against climate change, the destruction of biodiversity, the threat to public health. But also to give an edge to the economy that, like it or not, the younger and more enterprising countries are already modifying at our expense.
What will be financed?
€33.7 billion available to fund projects in line with EU Green Deal goals:
For the transport sector: €25.8 bn
- projects of common interest for efficient and interconnected networks and infrastructures for smart, sustainable, inclusive and safe mobility
- adapt TEN-T networks to the needs of military mobility
For the energy sector: €5.8 bn
- further integration of the internal energy market
- cross-border and cross-sector interoperability of networks
- security of supply
- cross-border cooperation on renewable energies
For the digital sector: €2 bn
- development of very high capacity networks and 5G systems
- increase the resilience and capacity of digital backbone networks on EU territories by connecting them to neighboring territories
- digitization of transport and energy networks
For more information on the funding criteria, priorities and indicators used to prioritize, see the Commission document.
The challenges for member states
As with any European program, CEF opens up competition between EU countries. It is sufficient to read the objectives indicated in the program to understand where the interests of both will be oriented. And like any EU program, it will strengthen or consolidate the interests of some countries, it will help those who want to launch towards new frontiers, those who will play on transport, on renewable energy (wind and hydrogen above all) and those who want to gain leadership positions in networks and 5G.
The race is therefore open and if the countries are able to seize this opportunity they will be able to conquer leadership positions in Europe, and perhaps in the world.