ECONOMY

Race to secure ESPA funding

race-to-secure-espa-funding

The Economy Ministry is racing against the clock to avoid losing European Union funds totaling approximately 2 billion euros from the National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA) scheme for 2007-14.

The Public Investment Program has already delayed payments from the scheme between January and July 2015 to the tune of 1.4 billion euros. According to the European Commission, funding will only be provided for expenditure taking place by the end of the year.

In statements made on Tuesday, Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis said that the objective was to safeguard resources until September. Plans are being drawn up to identify which projects the next round of ESPA funds will provide for and which will have their funding cut.

As Alexis Haritsis, the general secretary for investments and development, explained, the target is to reduce the burden on the new ESPA program as much as possible so as not to overload the state budget with projects that are unlikely to be completed on time, thus wasting European community funding.

To this end, a 50-million-euro loan already obtained from the European Investment Bank will be used, as well as an advance of 300 million euros from an agreed new loan of 1 billion euros, also from the EIB.

The Greek government is also looking forward to the increased advance payment of the 2015 ESPA program agreed with the Commission, part of which will be used toward completing programs as quickly as possible.

The economy minister has estimated that by the end of September payments for ESPA projects which had previously been frozen will gradually resume, restoring funding for projects in progress that have remained unpaid for months.

Along with concluding the previous ESPA scheme, attempts are being made to activate the new one through three new tenders for the strengthening of entrepreneurship. Guidlines on the terms and conditions are expected to be published in late October and the deadline for applications will be made known by the end of 2015.

The tenders target small and micro tourism enterprises, business schemes for graduates over 25 and start-up financing.