ECONOMY

Money still owed from second CSF

Greece still has to receive some 500 billion drachmas (1.47 billion euros) in European Union funds for projects approved under the Second Community Support Framework (CSFII), which ran from 1994 to 1999, and is in danger of losing about half of it, according to European Commission sources. Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, who is in Brussels to present the priorities of Greece’s six-month presidency of the EU, met with Michel Barnier, the commissioner responsible for regional policy and the disbursement of CSF funds, to discuss the problem. Commission sources claim that Greece has not submitted adequate reports about where CSFII money went. Even though Greek officials keep sending reports about the projects and their financing, Commission officials either return these reports as inadequate or ask for more analytical reports and invoices. This issue is not a straightforward one, because the Commission is embroiled in a similar dispute with other recipients of EU funds. A total of 22 billion euros earmarked for EU aid under CSFII have not yet been disbursed and governments are beginning to suspect that these demands for extra reports and new auditing of past projects is a ruse by Commission officials to avoid disbursing the money altogether. Economy Ministry officials, when asked, prefer not to comment, or say privately that they do not want to draw the ire of bureaucrats in Brussels. Greece, after all, has been found in the past to be wanting in its own auditing of CSF projects. Christodoulakis believes that the issue of CSFII funds must be resolved by March 31, the date the Commission itself has set as the final deadline for all reports and invoices to be sent to Brussels. As president of the European Council of Finance Ministers (Ecofin) Christodoulakis is expected to draw the attention of his colleagues to the issue and demand that auditing be equally severe for all members, that no retroactive auditing take place and that the Commission undertake to complete its auditing procedures within a reasonable time frame. Yesterday, Christodoulakis outlined the Greek presidency’s views on regional policy, the internal market and external trade to the permanent representatives of EU member states in Brussels.