Calabria, Brussels promotes the reform that creates the regional water authority

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BRUSSELS – The European Commission promotes the Calabria Water Authority (Arrical), a regionally controlled company that will deal with water management in the region, overcoming the current fragmentation, up to the municipal level, which has too often proven ineffective in correct and efficient management of water resources. This is not just a Calabrian problem, as demonstrated by the numerous infringement procedures opened by the EU. «There are several reasons why we believe that this reform is not only positive for Calabria but can become a reference model for other regions» explain the managers of the DG Regional Policies (DG Regio) of the European executive to which in recent weeks the president of the regional council, Roberto Occhiuto, presented the plan in detail during a meeting with commissioner Elisa Ferreira.

Integration between Pnrr reforms and cohesion funds

«The first reason – they explain to DG Regio, the general directorate that supervises the ERDF, European Regional Development Fund – is that it is a reform included in the Pnrr Italia and it is one of the few reforms on which we have insisted a lot during the negotiations of the Italian National Recovery and Resilience Plan”. It is one of the examples (not many so far, to be honest, ed.) of integration and complementarity between the NextGeneration Eu funds, i.e. the Pnrr, and the structural funds, in this case the ERDF.

In Calabria, the M2 mission of the Pnrr allocates more than 550 million euros to the protection of the territory and water resources, to which is added another 100 million from the 21-27 regional program financed with the ERDF and the European Social Fund Plus. Under the “hat” of the Pnrr, there are a total of 2840 projects for the protection of the territory and water resources in Calabria. On the ReGIS platform, only 11 had been completed as of last July (latest data available online).

The benefits of regional management

Past experience also plays a role in the Commission’s positive assessment. «In Calabria, but not only, the management of projects in this sector at municipal level was very problematic, we couldn’t complete them, we weren’t going anywhere. Often – the officials of DG Regio underline – we have experienced in other European countries that when there is an aggregation of management at a higher level, in the case of Calabria at a regional level, various benefits are obtained. The projects become more interesting and manage to attract skills, i.e. qualified personnel. There is also greater coherence between projects than between different municipalities, whereas previously they were disconnected from each other even if they affected the same catchment area. In other words, development potential has a greater chance of being translated into concrete effects.” The single operator, according to Brussels, is therefore a structure that should (or could) allow Calabria to attract serious and structured companies, in terms of skills and capabilities, ultimately capable of carrying out the works.

Calabria is leading the way

«The financing is used to carry out the works, this is important for us. It seems obvious, it is a fundamental objective but it is good to remember it” say European officials. “Unfortunately we have experienced too many times that it is very difficult for this to happen if management is at municipal level.” The new structure “we expect will lead to the closure of all infringement procedures, which are quite costly for public finances”. The procedures mainly concern the failure to treat or incorrectly treat waste water. «It is very important that a southern region is leading the way in a reform envisaged by the Pnrr for the entire country – they say -. Also for this reason we believe that it is a model that can also be replicated in other regions, starting with Sicily, whose situation is not very different from that of Calabria.

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