EU admin needs to be fit for green, AI future, says top official

By Thomson Reuters Mar 26, 2024 | 5:43 AM

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union countries’ budget cuts have eaten into layers of government that need now to be reinforced given their vital role in the transition to a more green and digital economy, a senior EU official said.

Elisa Ferreira, European commissioner for cohesion and reforms, said the cuts in particular during the euro zone crisis from 2009 to the mid-2010s had resulted in reduced staff in public administration and delayed training or introduction of new technologies.

“But we are asking for the public administration to adapt, to do green budgeting, to use artificial intelligence… and often they don’t have the means to deliver,” Ferreira told Reuters in an interview.

The European Union has new laws to speed up the process of granting permits for projects that would boost clean tech production or secure supply of critical materials, but public administrations, which grant permits, could prove a bottleneck.

The bloc has a seven-year fund of 864 million euros ($936.1 million) designed to help EU countries prepare for such future challenges and carry out reforms, through training, sharing best practices and providing project advice and oversight.

The European Commission said on Tuesday it had selected 170 projects for 2024, of which nearly a third relate to the green transition and just over a quarter to the digital shift.

Projects include plans by Estonia and Lithuania to produce sustainable aviation fuel and six EU members to support areas most negatively hit by the green transition.

Some 37 financial supervisors from 26 EU members will also receive support and training in the risks and opportunities advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, present for the financial sector.

The EU aims to help public authorities in green budgeting, in which the environmental impact of budgetary items is incorporated to meet green goals.

Ferreira said EU members needed to invest in strengthening public authorities, although this did not necessarily mean employing more staff.

($1 = 0.9230 euros)

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Nick Macfie)