ECONOMY

State aims to make better use of EU funds

The government yesterday said it aims to speed up the absorption of Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII) funds, just days after admitting it stands to lose a substantial amount from the second tranche of funds, due to irregularities over several projects. «Significant progress has been made in all sectors,» Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said after meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis on the issue. «Because the third package of structural funds plays a decisive role in infrastructure development, especially in the agricultural sector, we need to speed up the absorption and implementation rates.» Deputy Finance Minister Christos Pachtas last week said Greece would not seek some 370 million euros in reimbursements from Brussels for projects financed by the second tranche of community funds for the sake of transparency. The second program, with 14.2 billion euros allocated to Greece, ran between 1994-1999. CSF funds are aimed at enhancing regional growth and competitiveness, and creating jobs. The amount corresponded to 2 percent of CSFII, which was significantly lower than the 8 percent loss suffered under the first package, Pachtas said. The percentage rate «is perfectly comparable to many other member states,» EU Regional Policy Commissioner Michel Barnier stressed at an informal regional policy council last week. He said not one EU country had been able to get reimbursed for the total amount they had spent under the second structural package, with the shortfall ranging from 0.7 percent to 10 percent. Christodoulakis dismissed concerns that the 370-million-euro shortfall would create problems for the budget, already stretched due to weather-related compensation and wage increases this year. «There has been no such issue,» he said. He said Greece is confident of getting full reimbursement for outlay related to CSFIII, which runs from 2000 to 2006. Tighter monitoring procedures are expected to boost the efficiency rate. Twenty percent of the total program had been absorbed by Greece by the end of April.