After criticism from regional leaders, the Czech government overturned its decision to support local sports clubs with money from the REACT-EU emergency instrument. Instead, a large majority of the funds will go to the healthcare system, EURACTIV Czech Republic reports.
The €47.5 billion strong REACT-EU fund was created as a part of the €750 billion recovery package, and is designed to act as a bridge between the unspent cohesion money that was reallocated for the coronavirus response last year and the longer-term objectives of the bloc’s regional policy.
In a document approved in October 2020, the government planned to allocate 15% of the envelope, some €165 million, to new Czech sporting infrastructure, particularly dressing rooms. However, the decision sparked criticism from Czech regional authorities, as EURACTIV.cz reported previously.
The recently updated version of government plans, seen by EURACTIV.cz, shows that regional leaders’ concerns were addressed. More than 70% of the subsidies will now go to the healthcare system, reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Czech Republic currently has the highest death rate reported in the EU with 2,606.97 victims per million population as of 12 April, according to Ourworldindata.org.
The Czech funding allocation of REACT-EU, worth about €1 billion, will support three specific areas – healthcare, the integrated rescue system and social infrastructure, including retirement homes. The sports infrastructure chapter has been deleted, a move welcomed by Czech regional authorities.
As Czech MEP Stanislav Polčák (EPP), who also serves as president of the Association of Local Administrations, pointed out, sport is not connected with the REACT-EU post-pandemic recovery goals.
According to him, the government probably wanted to “use the European money to fund its election campaign”. The Czech parliamentary elections are planned for October 2021.
The removal of sports infrastructure was welcomed by the Association of Regions of the Czech Republic. The association told EURACTIV.cz that cybersecurity was the only priority of the regional leaders that was not reflected in the final version of REACT-EU money distribution.
The Czech cabinet’s initial plans for the funds reflected the extra flexibility given to national governments in allocating the money compared to usual cohesion rules.
[Edited by Vlagyiszlav Makszimov/Zoran Radosavljevic]