EU funds flow out again

Brussels – Greece has failed to take full advantage of generous EU funding, according to a European Commission report on regional policies released yesterday. The report, which concerns the year 2002, does not refer to the well-documented cases of fund misuse, tardiness in implementing projects and sloppy execution. Rather, it points out a hitherto little-acknowledged source of ineffective use of EU money. Specifically, the report says that 42 percent of EU regional funds earmarked for Greece return to other EU member-states in the form of imported equipment and know-how. This is the highest percentage among EU members; Portugal, in second place, spends 35 percent of the funds it receives for the main purpose and the EU average is 25 percent. This reflects mostly the lack of spending on research and development, as well as technology. Both the public and private sectors are dead last among all 25 EU members, including the poorer newcomers from Eastern Europe. The private sector’s investment on R&D and technology barely accounts for 0.2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), while the public sector’s spending is equal to 0.14 percent of GDP. Things are a little better at educational institutions, where spending on research is equal to 0.29 percent of Greece’s GDP. Still, even in this sector, Greece is among Europe’s laggards. In total, Greece spends 0.67 percent of its GDP on research and technology. Portugal, the second-worst performer, spends 0.85 percent of its GDP and the EU average is 1.93 percent. and this includes all 25 members; the average of the «old 15» is even higher.