ECONOMY

Greeks lost more than half a billion euros from CSFII

Brussels – Greece stands to lose more than half a billion euros in European Union funds earmarked for projects of various kinds through the Second Community Support Framework (CSFII) program, according to EU Regional Policy Commissioner Michel Barnier. In replying to a query by a Spanish Euro MP, Barnier replied that a total of 7.1 billion euros earmarked for CSFII projects will return to the European budget. These sums were supposed to be disbursed to the 15 member states through the Agricultural Fund (716 million euros), the Fisheries Fund (149 million), the Regional Fund (3.78 billion) and the Social Fund (2.455 billion). Although a final audit on CSFII has yet to be produced – the program officially ran from 1994 to 1999, but disbursements occurred as late as last year – there are three ways for earmarked funds not to be used: First, when a country is unable to submit projects for funding up to the full level allotted to it by the Commission; second, if, following auditing, the Commission discovers irregular or illegal use of funds and demands reimbursement; third, in the rare cases when the projects approved cost less than the sum of their initial budgets. If an individual project is completed within its initial budget, the recipient country can ask for the excess sum to be transferred to other projects. In Greece’s case, the inability to submit enough projects, or submit them in time to be considered in time, was the main reason for the loss of funds, although reimbursements due to irregularities played their part. Greece, which forfeited a total of 520 million euros, is the sixth biggest loser of EU funds from CSFII after France (1.503 billion euros), the United Kingdom (1.156 billion), Italy (1.154 billion), Germany (735 million) and the Netherlands (523 million). Crucially, it forfeited more funds than either of the three other major recipients Spain (390 million), Ireland (334 million) and Portugal (191 million). It is also significant that, of the funding Greece lost, the bulk (440 million euros) comes from the Regional Fund, the one crucial to projects to aid development. Only France (807 million) and the UK (775 million) lost more, in absolute terms. Among the other main beneficiaries of the Regional Fund, Italy lost 432 million euros, Spain 228 million, Portugal 107 million and Ireland 62 million.