ECONOMY

Strict terms for project deadlines

The European Commission is setting strict quality and quantity criteria in order to accept Greece’s demand for an extension to the implementation period for the projects of the Third Community Support Framework, according to a letter it sent to Athens. The successful negotiation for the extension by one more year, that is by the end of 2009, will eventually determine whether Greece avoids the loss of EU funds from the 10 billion euros remaining in that earmarked for it in the EU-subsidized program. The clear guidelines of the Commission are to be met by tough negotiations by Deputy Economy Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou, who is trying to secure an extension for all sectors of CSF III. After the destructive forest fires of this past summer, Greece secured an extension for the four regional programs of Attica, Western and Central Greece and the Peloponnese, but as this stems from an internal document by the competent directorate in the Commission, this is an extension for specific projects. The content of that document reveals that even in Attica the extension is restricted only to the projects whose course of implementation was affected by the Mount Parnitha fire and does not concern all projects in the program. The unused funds for the regional program for Attica come to -350 million (from total public spending of -1.5 billion) of which only a small part goes to projects that Greece can document were delayed by the forest fires. After making specific reference to the sectors and the nature of the projects that are eligible for extension, the Commission notes these may concern infrastructure, agriculture and social projects, related to health and education. There is also a minimum of 30 percent of each project or its funding that must have been affected by the fires for it to secure an extension.