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Brussels greenlights Italy's €191.5 billion COVID-19 recovery plan

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By Euronews with AFP
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European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen (L) symbolically hands to Italy's Prime Minister, Mario Draghi the NextGenerationEU recovery plan, on June 22, 2021 in Rome
European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen (L) symbolically hands to Italy's Prime Minister, Mario Draghi the NextGenerationEU recovery plan, on June 22, 2021 in Rome   -   Copyright  ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP
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The European Commission on Tuesday gave the green light to Italy's €191.5 billion recovery plan, said its president Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Premier Mario Draghi at a joint press conference.

"Today is a day of pride for our country," Draghi said as he shared the news.

Italy, the first European country to be hit by the pandemic, will receive the largest share of the EU's €750 billion recovery package, von der Leyen noted.

Known as Next Generation EU, the fund intends to help countries out of a sharp economic downturn caused by the COVID-19.

“After an unprecedented crisis, Italy today has a unique opportunity to build a better future. Italy has presented a plan for reforms and investments that will enable the country to address problems that have held back economic development and social progress for far too long," said Paolo Gentiloni, EU Commissioner for Economy.

The €191.5 billion Italian plan includes €68.9 billion in grants. 37% of the funds will be invested in measures that support climate objectives, the Commission said.

In total, the pandemic has killed over 127,000 people in Italy and battered the country's economy. Its GDP dropped by 8.9% last year, Italy's worst recession since World War II.

The EU’s 27 countries have to submit their spending plans to Brussels authorities, which vet them to ensure they are in line with the bloc’s policy goals. EU officials will follow up later to check whether Member States are abiding by their commitments.

Von der Leyen started a tour of member states last week to announce the bloc’s initial endorsement of their national spending plans. The visits came after the bloc launched its bond sale for the EU Next Generation funds.

A total of 10 countries have now received Brussels' green light for their coronavirus plans, while 24 have submitted theirs.