Two-Thirds of Italy's $228 Billion COVID Recovery Funds Allocated for Climate Goals

Italy will receive 191.5 billion euros ($228.5 billion) in COVID-19 recovery funds from the European Union, after the European Union's Executive Committee approved the funding on Tuesday.

Italian Premier Mario Draghi said at a joint press conference in Rome with visiting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that the funding will make Italy, the EU's third-largest economy, "more just, more competitive and more sustainable in its growth."

Italy was hit hardest economically and in terms of COVID deaths by the pandemic of all the 27 nations in the EU's block, the Associated Press reported. It is receiving the largest portion of the EU's recovery funds, which total 68.9 billion euros in grants and 122.6 billion euros in loans.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Italy EU
European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen (L) symbolically hands to Italy's Prime Minister, Mario Draghi the NextGenerationEU recovery plan during a joint press conference on June 22, 2021 at Rome's Cinecitta cinema studio, following their meeting as part of Leyen's tour of Europe to launch Covid-19 recovery plans. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP/Getty Images

The commission's approval is an important step toward the distribution of funds for Italy's vast reform and investment plan. Von der Leyen said the first funds could be released in four weeks, after the European Council approves the plan.

More than one-third of Italy's total funding is earmarked for projects supporting climate goals and one-quarter for digital investments.

Von der Leyen said key reforms include plans to reduce the length of civil and criminal trials, modernizing the public administration and reforming competition law.

"This is just a beginning," Draghi said. "The challenge now is the implementation of the plan, we need to make sure the funds are spent, but above all spent well."

He cited past examples when Italy only spent a tiny fraction of funds it had been allocated by the EU, and said that if the funds are used in an efficient manner some of the programs could become permanent.

European Commission President Ursula meets the media during a joint news conference with Italian Premier Mario Draghi, at the Cinecitta' studios in Rome, Tuesday, June 22, 2021. Andrew Medichini/AP Photo