Last bonanza of EU investment subsidies is set

BRUSSELS – The European Union-subsidized National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) investment plan for Greece for the 2007-2013 period officially kicked off here yesterday, with the European Commission expressing its satisfaction with the priorities set by the Greek government and Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis stressing that it is the last large package of economic aid to Greece. NSRF is the fourth such package, previously called Community Support Framework (CSF), and includes 13 separate programs that will bring Greece investment subsidies totaling 20 billion by 2013. Its signing yesterday signaled the start of the disbursement of 400 million. Of the 13 programs, which are financed through the EU Regional and Cohesion funds, four are sectoral, that is, they will be developed throughout the country in particular sectors, four are regional and one concerns technical support for the implementation of the rest. There are also three programs from the Social Fund and one for the development of the countryside. The first sectoral program, «Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship,» will be allocated subsidies of 1.29 billion, with emphasis on research, support for small and medium-sized enterprises, the development of alternative energy sources and reductions in atmospheric pollution. The «Digital Convergence» program will be allocated 860 million for promoting the spread of information technology, especially in the public sector, tourism, shipping and culture. The «Environment» program will receive 1.8 billion for the management of waste, atmospheric pollution and improving the capacity of public departments to handle such issues. The Development of the Countryside program, budgeted to receive subsidies of 5 billion, has already been approved. Additionally, more than 8 billion will be allocated to the prefectural regions for projects in transport, urban improvement and strengthening the competitiveness of local economies. A sum of 4.5 billion will come from the Social Fund for the training of human resources, education and improvements in public administration. «These funds are the last great opportunity for Greece in its pursuit of growth and real convergence, a more outward-looking and productive Greece, that could stand among the leaders in Europe,» said Alogoskoufis. «It is our duty to ensure that these funds will be utilized to the benefit of the Greek economy and Greeks’ living standards.» Regional Policy Commissioner Danuta Hubner said she was satisfied with the priorities set in Greece’s NSRF. «Today’s signing is only the beginning. The real challenge for Greece is the implementation of the programs,» she added.