Brussels has threatened this Wednesday to bring Spain to European justice for the “excessive delays” of payments to suppliers by public administrations, in particular autonomous communities and municipalities. Six years after the file was opened, the European Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to the government after verifying that non-compliances persist. If Spain’s response is not satisfactory, the Community Executive has announced that it will be able to appeal to the Court of Justice of the EU.
The top priority for Brussels is now to save the productive fabric of the EU. The brutal recession suffered as a result of the pandemic has put companies against the rope, especially SMEs. And now, these can be harmed by an untimely withdrawal of aid to governments, which would also trigger the unemployment rate. For this reason, Brussels has drawn the attention to Italy and Spain about the delays that the suppliers of the public administrations continue to suffer.
The Community Executive has decided to send Spain an opinion motivated by “excessive delays in payments by public authorities.” “In the Commission’s opinion, this delay constitutes an infringement of the obligations derived from Directive 2011/7 [sobre morosidad]”, Assure sources of the Executive of Ursula von der Leyen. Community law obliges public authorities to pay their bills in 30 days (60 days in the case of hospitals). “Late payments have a negative effect on companies, as they reduce their liquidity, prevent them from growing, hinder their resilience and their ability to become greener and more digital,” adds Brussels.
The file with Spain was opened in 2015, although it was put on hold in 2018 at the request of the Spanish government to allow it to identify and implement measures to address the problem. In addition, a new methodology was incorporated to calculate these payment periods at the request of Brussels, since the system used by the Administration did not comply with European rules. Community sources explain that during this period the Spanish authorities delivered regular reports. “After two years of suspension, however, the situation has not improved,” they add.
The Community Executive considers that there is no constant trend towards “a systemic and irreversible reduction” of these delays. And while he acknowledges the efforts made by the central authorities, he believes that the autonomous communities and municipalities have not been used in the same way. “The measures put in place by the Spanish authorities [en esas administraciones] They have not given the expected results ”, they add.
According to the Commission’s estimates, in November 2020 the commercial debt of the autonomous regions continued to climb to 5,093 million euros. The payment period was 66 days in the case of regional governments, and 68 in the case of local corporations. In both cases, they almost doubled what was allowed by community law. Even so, the Multisectoral Platform against Delinquency indicates that the average payment of the public sector was 77 days in 2020. Brussels gives Spain two months to reply. In case the answer is not satisfactory, you can go to the Luxembourg Court.