Ladies and gentlemen,
Today’s initiative could indeed be described as historic, because it is about our country’s capacity to outline the path towards tomorrow -being, in fact, one of the first countries in Europe to do so. The National Recovery and Resilience Plan is the bridge which will lead Greece not only to the post-Covid era, but also to the third decade of the 21st century.
It is, as you shall see, a very well thought-out roadmap that comprises 170 specific projects, investments and reforms and features four pillars: the digital transition for the state, businesses and citizens; employment growth and increased social cohesion, with Health and Education being at the forefront; the green economy; and a surge in productive and business activity. This is a plan that covers all of Greece. It concerns every Greek woman and every Greek man and aspires to create 200,000 additional new jobs, increasing our national product by 7 points within the next six years.
I wish to remind you how it all started, back in March 2020. We had just been hit by a pandemic. In a bold letter, along with eight other European leaders, we raised the issue of common European borrowing for the first time, to address the economic consequences of the pandemic and to forge the next day. At that time many considered this prospect practically impossible. Four months later, however, it had become a tangible decision of the European Council; and today it is a palpable attainment of 27 peoples, the peoples of Europe with Greece, which stands at the front line today as it did back then.
This is, essentially, the flip side of the health crisis and an example of how a huge problem can be turned into a way to solve structural weaknesses; it also proves that taboos that we once considered unshakable can be shattered through methodical efforts. In July 2020, after the five-day meeting of the European Council in Brussels, I emphasized that the RRF funds had been won for investment, rather than spending. And I repeat this today.
Our rapporteurs, who have worked quietly and effectively for a long time will speak later on in greater detail about the plan. I want to thank them personally. They deserve truly warm congratulations for the quality of their work. As far as I am concerned, I will simply point out the scale of the funds that will be mobilized. We are talking about 57 billion euros, if we add up the 32 billion in European grants and loans and the significant additional capital of 25 billion euros that will be mobilized by the private sector. In other words, we are talking about something much bigger than a second NSRF.
Above all, however, I want to emphasize the groundbreaking character of this program, because it essentially alters the model of the Greek economy, transforming it into a competitive and extroverted one. With a digital and efficient state -an area where we have already done a lot. With a tax system that should be growth-friendly. With important projects throughout Greece, which also have a social dimension, and a constant focus on the future. That is why the name of this Plan also refers to the revolution that tomorrow brings: “Greece 2.0”. It is the new version of the country, in this new era that is coming.
At the core of our plan lies the creation of many permanent, high-quality and well-paid jobs, through very important public and private investments. There are always two preconditions however: anyone from the private sector who utilizes the resources of the Fund must at the same time invest their own money, taking a risk of their own; and all the blueprints that will be eventually approved must be mature to implement. These are the two paths that must converge in order to turn this effort into a national one.
The National Plan literally serves both the economic recovery and social resilience by investing in health, education, employment, skills, social care, speedy digital services, but also in the great environmental challenges of transitioning to an economy of low- and ultimately zero-carbon emissions. After all, over 37% of the National Recovery Plan’s resources have been allotted to the green transition, for projects such as the countrywide spatial reform, which is of enormous importance in order to finally clarify land uses throughout Greece. For projects such as upgrading the energy efficiency of all public and private buildings, for the great shift to renewable energy sources, and of course for the shift to electric transportation in public mass transit and private transport.
All these actions are not disjointed, they are coherent. They form synergies in pursuit of the same goal. I have opted to briefly mention some of the actions of the Plan, both emblematic and symbolic, nonetheless they all have a deep imprint on the economy and society: the big infrastructure projects for example, the North Road Axis in Crete which will be partially financed by the National Recovery Fund; the E65 motorway that we had the opportunity to talk about a few weeks ago in Trikala, which will connect southern and central Greece with the Egnatia Odos (motorway); major works for upgrading the railway network. I also consider the electrical interconnection of the islands with mainland Greece to be crucial for energy sufficiency and cost-reduction. And broad interventions such as a national reforestation plan, which will also be partly funded by the National Recovery Plan, as well as important actions to safeguard our unique biodiversity.
Needless to say, digital transformation is essential for businesses, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises, which are the backbone of entrepreneurship; and we all realize how crucial it is to upgrade and modernize production in the primary sector. Just to mention some important projects: the modernization of irrigation networks, which is also financed by the Fund, and the program for ensuring energy sufficiency for all vulnerable households, an action that has a special social imprint.
In the field of health, I choose (to mention) the comprehensive renovation and modernization of hospital equipment, programs for the provision of home care -and let me point out the personal assistant initiative for each of our fellow citizens with special needs.
On cultural matters, let me note the creation of a museum of marine antiquities in Piraeus and the further promotion of the Acropolis monuments.
At the same time, the skills of our workforce will be reinforced by a substantial program that aims to upgrade across-the-board our vocational training centers, and by the broadening of lifelong learning.
I chose to mention some large and some small policies in order to lay out the range of our initiatives and their universal character. And to emphasize, of course, that the National Recovery Plan creates a new day-to-day reality for all Greek citizens, because it is precisely the citizens who are at the center of this gigantic effort.
It becomes clear, then, that the National Plan does not merely encompass credit lines and projects, but also an incalculable symbolic capital, because it signals a rupture with long-established perceptions and interests that are stifling the economy. It is in line with the maturity of our society, which now demands bold breakthroughs everywhere.
And it is, after many years, a truly national plan; it leverages the proposals of the Pissarides Committee, which set out the roadmap for our economy for the next decade; the directions and ramifications of the National Recovery Plan have been drawn up in Greece and are about Greece. They come from Greeks and are for Greeks. The government, in other words, has full ownership of all these great choices.
The Plan obviously incorporates many of the lessons drawn from the pandemic, with an emphasis on solidarity policies and the role of the state as the main actor in reforms but also as the facilitator of private initiatives, whenever needed. Ιt also resolves, however, structural issues that had remained unsettled for decades, eliminating long-running quandaries. And the planning for this great leap is only the beginning, it is the first kilometer in a marathon whose finish line will be crossed only when all the resources have been absorbed, in 2026.
This is not just a course that we will follow for a certain time, but a radical reorientation that transforms the productive base of the country, ultimately leading to a fair distribution of national wealth. That is why the Plan incorporates proposals from all the ministries and it will be implemented with sectoral and regional synergies.
In short, the effort that starts today means more wealth for all, more jobs, especially for young people, and a better day-to-day life for everyone.
Let me end my remarks by reminding that the strategic directions of this program have been known since November. The consultation process in Parliament will start tomorrow. And after its approval by the European institutions it will be discussed once more with the political and social actors, in the form of a parliamentary bill. Because “Greece 2.0” does not ultimately concern a single government. It concerns the whole country; it goes beyond any one party, as it is connected to the whole of society. And of course its scope is not measured in government terms, but in decades. It is therefore an opportunity for fruitful dialogue with all, an opportunity to build a broader consensus, but in the end it also is a big wager that will make the life of every Greek better.
It is a wager that we must all win together.