EU recovery plans: Don’t rush back to business as usual

EU member states called out by citizen groups not to miss once-in-a-generation chance to transform the economy towards a green, inclusive and resilient future

BRUSSELS, 17 June 2021 – EU economic and finance ministers meeting this week must take a hard look at the sub-par recovery plans recently submitted by member states to stand by their word to “build back better” and deliver a sustainable, resilient economy for all people in Europe. Twenty-one civil society organisations, including trade unions, environmental, consumer groups and the youth, just issued that call in a letter to EU finance ministers to rethink the recovery.

The demand comes after analysis of the 23 national recovery plans submitted during the past few weeks shows governments putting too much focus on the present, not the future. Countries continue to make their case to put most outlays into short-term efforts to save yesterday’s jobs and keep the economy moving and society functioning. While noble goals, financial and economic firepower devoted to the “old economy” slows progress towards the new. That means transforming Europe in ways that help it withstand the next shock, be it from climate change, a health crisis or economic downturn.

“The plans show a lack of guts and compass towards preparing for the future,” says Finance Watch Secretary General Benoit Lallemand. “Member States may add up budget lines to meet the 37% threshold set by the Commission for climate-related spending – not without some greenwashing, as highlighted by the European Parliament last week – but they miss reforms that transform part of a sectoral and transversal vision of the transition.”

According to estimates compiled in recent research by the Zoe Institute, between €349 billion and €883 billion of additional investments must be devoted to reaching climate and environmental targets set by the Commission alone. Separate analysis by the Green recovery tracker uncovers how measures put in motion in Germany appear largely disconnected from any concrete, long-term targets or climate conditions. That mismatch creates “a significant risk of investments appearing green but ultimately not contributing to the green transition.” The tracker also shows that most funds from the EU Recovery Facility sidestep additional transformative measures. In Germany, around €23 billion are earmarked for “negative” measures and €1 billion on “very” negative measures. France has placed just over €20 billion towards negative measures.

Another troubling aspect to the recovery planning was how civil society struggled to get their views heard in contacts with the Commission and governments. That point was echoed in a letter sent this week by the Climate Action Network Europe, who noted the shortfall and calls to policymakers to bring in civil society in the recovery process.

Rethink the Recovery Campaign: Civil society calling for swift, strong, systematic change

The Rethink the Recovery campaign received some 900 signatures from different parts of society – trade unions, youth organizations, consumer groups, environmental NGOs, and citizens. The campaign includes 21 partners, who noted:

“The National Recovery and Resilience Plans fall short of delivering the needed catalyst to drive the green and just transition. There has been a disappointing lack of commitment to policy reform around harmful subsidies, green taxes and incentives and green public procurement. We risk a return to a business-as-usual if the European Commission doesn’t push member states to raise ambitions.” Jeremy Wates, Secretary General European Environmental Bureau (EEB)

“We must rethink the recovery, because we are currently wasting a singular opportunity to advance the green and social transition that we all know is inevitable. Rebuilding the old in service of short-term economic indicators, will only cost us valuable time in the fight for a more resilient and sustainable future.” Gerhard Schick, Chairman Finanzwende

“Rethinking European and National Recovery plans are our last opportunity to quickly and deeply transform our economic system to advance a just, inclusive and prosperous society at global and local levels.” Jeremie Foss, President eco-union.

For more information, contact: James Pieper, Finance Watch, on +32 496 51 72 70 or at


Notes to editors:

About Rethink the Recovery: Rethink the Recovery is a civil society campaign advocating for resilient recovery plans and a reform of the EU fiscal rules. The campaign argues that civil society needs to come together to tackle this crucial issue and aims to build a network of activists and economists to press for urgent reform of EU fiscal rules. Citizens and activists concerned about climate change, social and tax justice, and sustainable economics can join the campaign at the Rethink the Recovery website.

About Finance Watch: Finance Watch is an independently funded public interest association dedicated to making finance work for the good of society. Its mission is to strengthen the voice of society in the reform of financial regulation by conducting advocacy and presenting public interest arguments to lawmakers and the public. Finance Watch’s members include consumer groups, housing associations, trade unions, NGOs, financial experts, academics and other civil society groups that collectively represent a large number of European citizens. Finance Watch’s founding principles state that finance is essential for society in bringing capital to productive use in a transparent and sustainable manner, but that the legitimate pursuit of private interests by the financial industry should not be conducted to the detriment of society.

About Benoît Lallemand: Secretary General of Finance Watch since January 2017, Benoît Lallemand served previously as senior policy analyst mainly covering MiFID 2, as well as senior advisor to Better Markets on EU affairs and head of strategic development and operations. He started the Citizens’ Dashboard of Finance, a platform allowing a broad range of stakeholders, including pioneers in sustainable businesses and financial services, academics and civil society organizations, to engage in a global campaign to change finance. Before joining Finance Watch upon its creation in 2011, Benoît Lallemand spent more than 10 years in the financial sector in clearing and settlement, where he held senior positions in asset-servicing departments, focusing on fixed income and structured products primary markets and regulatory reporting. He managed several business steering committees and strategic projects. Benoît Lallemand has roots in the NGO world from his student years.

Rethink the Recovery campaign partners

  • Asociación De Usuarios Financieros (ASUFIN)
  • Bürgerbewegung Finanzwende
  • Debt Observatory in Globalisation (ODG)
  • Eco-Union
  • European Environmental Bureau (EEB)
  • European Public Service Union (EPSU)
  • European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)
  • European Youth Forum (EYF)
  • Finance Watch
  • Fondation Nicolas Hulot (FNH)
  • Fundación Finanzas Éticas
  • Greenpeace EU
  • Greentervention
  • Les éconologistes
  • NESI Forum
  • New Economics Foundation (NEF)
  • Österreichische Bundesarbeitskammer (AK Europa)
  • Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund (ÖGB)
  • Revo Prosperidad Sostenible
  • Union De Consumidores De Asturias
  • Veblen Institute for Economic Reforms



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