Quarter of CSFIII funds absorbed so far, gov’t says

By the end of September, Greece had absorbed 25 percent of European Union funds available for infrastructure projects through the Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII), Deputy Economy Minister Christos Pachtas announced yesterday. CSFIII runs from 2000 to 2006, although payments from it are expected to materialize for at least another couple of years after that. There are still payments outstanding from CSFII (1994-99). Pachtas said that the government is trying to make those responsible for the implementation of projects conform to the strict quality and monitoring standards demanded by the EU, not an easy task. Delays in work or evidence of shoddy work are dealt with through «encouragement» to contractors to conform to standards and through fines, if all other means are exhausted. Pachtas commented on a working paper used by European Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou detailing instances of shoddy management of CSFIII funds and projects by private operators and state agencies. The paper was leaked by opposition New Democracy MP Aristidis Tsiplakos. Pachtas accused New Democracy of «trying to create a false impression» by implying that the paper was a wholesale condemnation on the part of the EU of Greece’s management of CSFIII funds. The paper, he said, was unofficial and incorporated the government’s own observations on CSFIII. Despite the low absorption rate and the fact that Greece has only secured 94 percent of the funds available through CSFII (it can secure a maximum 97 percent), Pachtas insisted that none of the EU funds earmarked for Greece within the framework of CSFIII will be lost. He assured reporters that absorption will accelerate in the future. Fund absorption is even less when one considers that, at the very start of CSFIII, the EU paid up front 7 percent of the funds earmarked for each member state. Two especially low-performing operational sectors are competitiveness and the information society, where fund absorption stands at 19 percent and 15 percent, respectively. On the other hand, the road arteries sector shows a very satisfactory 46 percent absorption rate.