Minister admits massive loss of EU funds for CSFII

Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Christos Pachtas, responsible for the inflows of European Union funds, admitted yesterday that Greece would lose some 160 billion drachmas (469.55 million euros) in still-available amounts left over from the Second Community Support Framework program (CSFII). He also did not preclude losing some of the 1 billion euros earmarked for Greece as part of CSFII, which was supposed to run from 1994 to 1999. The government has already paid out the 469 million euros to private individuals or contractors involved in projects submitted for funding from CSFII. However, it will not recover the funds from the EU because it is fully aware that the EU would decline reimbursement of any receipts submitted to Brussels for these projects because of the numerous irregularities that have occurred. This loss of EU funds, which will further burden the budget, had been uncovered by the press several months ago. The responses of government officials at that time had been to dispel the rumors as false, but now it appears that official statements have been misleading. Loss of funds The issue became clear yesterday in a response made by EU Regional Affairs Commissioner Michel Barnier to Greek New Democracy Euro-MP Constantinos Hatzidakis. New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis referred to the issue in his speech yesterday at the annual general meeting of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV). New Democracy MP Yiannis Papathanassiou, a former president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, had also raised the issue in the Greek Parliament 10 days ago. Pachtas yesterday gave an explanation about the lost sum, which he said was actually 372 million euros, in an effort to diminish the issue’s importance. «Throughout the duration of CSFII and, especially before we sent (to the EU) applications for funds, we made systematic and very thorough checks on all the programs and all projects funded by CSFII. After the monitoring conducted by Greek authorities – conducted on the basis of a methodology agreed with the EU – Greece did not apply for the payment of funds equaling 372 million euros, despite the fact that this amount has been spent. For these amounts, we could not ask for EU reimbursement. This is what transparency demands and the Greek government has been responsible in the way it acted. That is what Greek and other European taxpayers expect from us. In all, we absorbed 14.2 billion euros in funds earmarked for Greece in the framework of CSFII, or 98 percent of the total. This is a great success for the country.» Pachtas added that for CSFII, the government applied especially tight rules on fund management, in contrast to CSFI, which ran when New Democracy was in power. This included setting up a National Monitoring Center to oversee all expenses incurred by private and state participants in CSFII projects.