Barroso calls on Athens to improve fund absorption

Athens is responsible for the delays in the absorption of European funds at the same time that the economy contracted by almost 7 percent in 2011, the head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, told Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos in a recent letter.

With the rate of utilization of resources from the National Strategic Reference Framework at low levels, Barroso leveled criticism at the Greek government regarding the non-implementation of the initiative announced for the operation of two funds.

The first fund was aimed at supporting small and medium-sized enterprises through capital already reserved from the structural funds. It was supposed to be activated at the end of January but remains on the drawing board.

The second part of the initiative concerned the Infrastructures Fund, which presumed the release of more than 1 billion euros, although Athens has not yet clarified where this money is supposed to come from.

Bureaucracy remains the main obstacle for the utilization of EU funds: ?The importance of greater concentration or of other means of rationalization? will have to be discussed and decided in cooperation with the Commission?s Task Force for Greece by the end of the month, said Barroso.

In view of the increase in the jobless rate, Barroso further called for measures to bolster the labor market.

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