NextGeneration EU funds

2023/03/03 Begiristain Zubillaga Mirene - EHUko iraskaslea. Ekonomialaria eta agroekologian ikertzailea | Perez Lázaro, Ruth - Aholkularia eta ikertzailea trantsizio hidrikoan eta ura eta saneamendua eskura izateko giza eskubidean Iturria: Elhuyar aldizkaria

Ed. Ana Galarraga de Aiestaran

The main way to channel funds from Spain’s Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan are the Strategic Projects of Reactivation and Economic Transformation (PSE). This plan, adopted on 27 April 2021, brings to Spain the European recovery plan of the NextGeneration EU. This financial and financial architecture was aimed at alleviating the economic and social impact of the coronary virus pandemic and at making the European economy and societies more sustainable and resilient. Currently there are 11 approved ESEPs, five of which have been analyzed by Public Investments, new routes of fragility in the ecofeminist transition, specifically in the areas of health, energy, agri-food, water and care. This study, conducted by XX, ODG, OMAL and ESF, has aimed to contribute to the debate on current economic policies from an ecofeminist point of view, reaffirming the hypothesis that enormous public funding has a technocapitalist objective, does not guarantee a sustainable future and does not respond to social and environmental needs.

Of the EUR 750 billion that the Next Generation Plan has for the whole of Europe, around EUR 72 billion will be invested in the Spanish State through grants. According to data from November 30, 2022, according to the regional competencies, in the Southern Basque Country 1,233 M €, 838 in the CAPV and 395 in the Navarra Basin have been received; the projects financed can be seen in Next Generation Euskadi and Next Generation Navarra.

Here are two of these ESEPs, agri-food and water cycle digitalisation.

1The analysis report is available at:https:


A new setback towards sustainable agriculture and food

Mirene Begiristain

Professor at the UPV. Economist and Researcher in Agroecology

The agri-food ESEPE aims to develop the entire agri-food chain, digitising processes and incorporating knowledge and innovation. Beyond this overall objective, it proposes three strategic objectives: 1) competitiveness, 2) sustainability and 3) traceability and security. The fourth transversal objective is the so-called demographic challenge. The ESEPE approved in February 2022 received a public investment of €1,002.91 million, spread over three lines of action: 1) 400 M€ for the strengthening of the agro-food industry for the automation and digitization of processes (data, logistics, modernization of machinery, replacement by renewable materials,…); 2) 454.35 M€ for digitization of the agri-food sector, among which the so-called Digital Kit, which represents 27% of the total funding; and 3) Agri-food research, for the R+D+I programmes.

The Ministries of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Economy and Digital Transformation and Science and Innovation are responsible for this ESEPE. The governance model for the development of the ESEPE has two levels, one inter-ministerial and the other public-private (PTP).

Analyzing the objectives, data and communication routes from an ecofeminist perspective, six central elements should be highlighted: 1) Delves deeper into the productivist model, which depends on technologies and materials, without questioning the eco-social limits of the food model and its influences and implications; 2) It is financing for the digital and robotic food industry, and not for a more sustainable agriculture and resilient sector; 3) It seeks agriculture free of farmers, with agriculture 4.0, blockchain technology, agriculture and artificial intelligence. This line is aligned and fostered by a series of agro-industrial mega-projects and digitalized infrastructures that we already see in the Basque Country; 4) The narrative relates the systemic crisis with business opportunities and with messages of equal opportunities, and tries to convince that growth is compatible with climate change, sustainable energy and materials management, the demographic challenge or the relay of women and young people, among others. 5) The peninsular governance model hampers transparency, participation and control mechanisms, and rejects public-public and/or public-community alliances; and 6) Strongly disconnects food consumption and territory.

From an eco-feminist perspective, the keys to the debate must be explained. In order to address the underlying problems, it is necessary to relocate the socio-economic processes, relocating the system of establishment and shortening the marketing chains. It is time to adapt the public proposals to the needs of the planet and to reorganize the essential tasks and needs, to increase the work and food of the peasants and to reduce the type of harmful and unnecessary models. On the basis of these keys, the eco-feminist networks have a fruitful path, but the agri-food ESEPE is a dark setback towards democratization and the mutual care of a system of sustainable and healthy establishment.


“Loss of the possibility of ecofeminist water transition”

Ruth Perez Lázaro

Consultant and researcher on water transition and human right to water and sanitation

Water is a basic and fundamental resource for ensuring life, according to the ESEPE of Digitalization of the Water Cycle. However, the ESEPE has built a restrictive narrative around the impact of climate change. Consequently, the dimensions of this common good are reduced to the economy, ignoring the physical limitations of the planet and without questioning the consequences of the processes of energy production and concurrence or privatization.

ESEPE aims at the transformation and modernisation of water management systems, both in urban cycles, irrigation cycles and industrial cycles. Its specific objectives are: 1) improving knowledge of water use; 2) increasing governance and transparency in water management; 3) making progress in meeting the objectives set by national and international legislation; and 4) creating high-skill employment. To this end, the main instruments are digitisation, innovation and training.

ESOPE for water will mobilise EUR 3,060 million: 1.940 million public investments and 1.120 million public-private partnerships. This strong investment could establish the human right to water and sanitation as a roadmap to feminist water transition, a category approved by the United Nations in 2010 that is never mentioned in the ESEPE report. Privatization under public-private models carries significant risks for the exercise of these rights, as we have seen in the Spanish State and in the Basque Country. The combination of maximization of performance, natural monopoly and imbalances in water powers make privatisation of the sector particularly dangerous.

One of the most outstanding issues of the ESEPE is the abandonment of an approach that conceives water as an eco-social asset, which gives it functions related to biodiversity, ecology, emotions and identity. It seems to recover supposedly overtaken discourses, supply-based strategies, but with a significant difference. In the past we were talking about major hydraulic works, and this time digitalization is considered the only way to solve in the complex “problem package” of sustainable water management. Management of claims based on savings and efficiency is not given due weight.

Unfortunately, ESOPE is a missed opportunity. On the one hand, it could serve to investigate new models of public-public or public-community cooperation. On the other hand, it does not offer any strategy of real public participation or the construction of collective knowledge, nor does it propose mechanisms that contribute to create jobs for people in vulnerable situations, as well as to reduce the sound gap. In turn, it does not propose strategies for territorial cohesion but, as far as water management is concerned, it increases the distance between urban and rural areas.