Vincent Chauvet : " 10 years ago, no one would have imagined that the European Union would be able to borrow money on its own."
The agreement reached between European Union leaders is good news for the recovery of the economy in the context of the Covid health crisis. But this money needs to be rapidly redirected to the local level, says Vincent Chauvet, MoDem mayor of Autun and a member of the European Committee of the Regions.
What is your reaction to the EU's agreement on a recovery plan?
I react as the mayor of Autun in Saône-et-Loire, but also as a pro-European and economist by training: I did my final thesis at HEC and Sciences Po on the mutualisation of European aid. At the time of the Eurozone crisis, I had published an article in Le Monde with Stéphane Cosset, an economist at the IMF: at that time, we were considering the possibility of pooling government debt by studying the economic advantages of France, Germany, Italy, etc. borrowing together.
To be honest, 10 years ago, no one would have imagined at any time that the European Union would be able to borrow on its own. We did not even dare to imagine that the EU was going to borrow on its own, without relying on the Member States.
In my opinion, we have just made a major federal leap, a monumental leap in integration. We are at an important moment in the construction of Europe. When the President of the Republic says, "This is a historic day for Europe", he is right, because it is really a very strong step forward.
As a centrist politician, I worked in François Bayrou's team of economists during the presidential campaign in 2012. This is something that our political family, the Modem, has been proposing for a long time: to borrow together, to have greater solidarity, including financial solidarity. As a member of this political family that created Europe, I am delighted that we have been able to reach this agreement, which is truly historic.
Why is it crucial that these European funds should quickly be channelled down to the local authority level?
Through this recovery plan, the European Union is going to give France some forty billion euros. It is at the level of the Member States that the decision to use the funds will be taken.
We, as members of the European Committee of the Regions, call for a rapid decentralisation of these funds. We say that it must be decided at State level, and even at local level, if the money is to be spent quickly and efficiently.
At the local level, we are able to launch public contracts, to invest very quickly in many small projects throughout the territory instead of investing in large national projects that take time to come out. That is why it is important that these funds come down as quickly as possible to the level of local authorities, because the recovery must take place as close as possible to the territories.
Ecological transition projects, for example, are very much at the level of local authorities. For example, the Morvan national park has an ambitious forest strategy. We are able to use this money wisely to insulate buildings, install electric car charging stations or install solar panels on buildings...