On June 1, 2021, Decree Law No. 77 of 2021 (D.L. No. 77) on Governance of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and Initial Measures to Strengthen Administrative Structures and Accelerate and Streamline Procedures (sometimes referred to as the “Simplification Decree”) entered into effect in Italy. D.L. No. 77 was converted into law by Law No. 108 of July 29, 2021.
The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP)
Italy’s NRRP was developed as part of the “Next Generation EU” program, “namely the € 750 billion [about US$881.5 billion] package – of which about half is in the form of grants – that the European Union negotiated in response to the pandemic crisis.” The main component of the program is the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), established by Regulation (EU) 2021/241 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 February 2021.
On June 22, 2021, the European Commission endorsed Italy’s recovery and resilience plan, stating that this was an important step towards the EU providing €68.9 billion in grants and €122.6 billion in loans under the RRF. The assessment process was based on 11 criteria set out in the regulation on the RRF.
D.L. No. 77 establishes the national regulatory framework aimed at “simplifying and facilitating the administrative procedures that may have an impact on the achievement of targets” set out in the NRRP. This includes targets established under the National Plan for Complementary Investments referred to in Decree-Law No. 59 of May 6, 2021 and the Integrated National Plan for Energy and Climate 2030 (referred to in Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2018 on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action). (D.L. No. 77, art. 1(1).)
The following are some of the key aspects of the new law.
Governance of the NRRP
The new law establishes a Control Room (Cabina di Regia) at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, presided over by the president of the Council, to oversee the administration of the NRRP. (Art. 1(1).) It requires the council president to issue a decree creating the Permanent Table for Economic, Social and Territorial Partnership, which is to be composed of representatives of civil society, the government, regions, autonomous provinces, local entities, and universities and other higher-education organizations. (Art. 3(1).) The Permanent Table has a consultative role in matters related to the NRRP. (Art. 3(2).)
In addition, the law establishes an office under the Department of State General Accounting – General Inspectorate for Financial Relations with the European Union to perform auditing functions with respect to the NRRP. (Art. 7(1).)
Measures to Expedite the Environmental Review of Projects
The new law made several amendments to the Code of the Environment (Codice dell’ambiente 2021, Decreto legislativo, 03/04/2006 No. 152). In particular, “the timeframe for the environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedure has been reduced to 130 days for projects included in the NRRP and to 60 days, extendable by a further 30 days in cases of particular complexity, for projects not included in the NRRP.” (See art. 21.)
D.L. No. 77 also allows interested parties in certain cases to request that authorities exclude from environmental review particular projects that would normally be subject to such review and expedite their approval. (Art. 22(1).)
An additional mechanism created by the law enables regions, autonomous provinces, metropolitan cities, municipalities and trade associations represented on the National Council for the Economy and Labor, the national environmental protection associations, and other organizations to request that the Ministry of Ecological Transition determine the competent authority and the application of national legislation in specific cases. The entities may also seek the issuance of interpretative guidelines that would assure the uniform application of environmental regulations throughout the country. (Art. 27(1).)
The law contains new measures aimed at accelerating the procedures for the remediation of contaminated sites and for the conversion of industrial sites to be used for projects identified in the NRRP that will be financed with EU funds. (Art. 37(1).)
In addition, the law makes amendments to the Code of the Environment concerning “strategic environmental assessments” aimed at expediting the consultation process. (Art. 28(1)(b)(1).)
Measures on Renewable Energy
The new law includes provisions aimed at simplifying the production of electric energy from renewable sources and includes a “repowering procedure.” In particular, a special committee will be established to work full-time on key energy projects, and renewable energy projects “of less than 10MW built on industrial land will not have to undergo environmental evaluations and will be authorised by means of a simple procedure.” Furthermore, “[f]or photovoltaic and hydropower plants, the law removes the need for an environmental impact assessment if the plant size, layout and volumes are unchanged.” (See art. 32.)
Implementation of the National Platform for the Issuance and Validation of COVID-19 Green CertificationsD.L. No. 77 establishes a national platform for the issuance of COVID-19 Green Passes (referred to in article 9 of Decree Law No. 52 of 2021) through the existing infrastructure of the Health Card System operated by the Ministry of Health. (Art. 42(1).) The vaccination certifications are to be issued to individuals and will be inserted in the electronic health record (fascicolo sanitario elettronico (FSE)) and authenticated in the portal of the national online platform created by article 64-bis of Legislative Decree No. 82 of March 7, 2005 regarding the national electronic identity card. In accordance with this legislation, and also with Decree-Law No. 111 of August 6, 2021 and a Ministry of Health order issued on August 28, 2021, Italy has enacted vaccination documentation requirements applicable to foreign tourists entering Italy until October 25, 2021. Green Passes are also required for domestic travel within Italy.