ECONOMY

Almost all EU funds absorbed

This year is the most important one for the realization of the EU-sponsored Third Community Support Framework, as this is when projects must be implemented and resources absorbed to a total amount of -8 billion. The projects included in the jointly funded section of the Public Investments Program in this year’s budget amount to just -6.7 billion. Therefore, in order for the government not to miss out on European Union resources, it should not only accelerate the realization of projects but also secure the European Commission’s approval for an extension for more projects than just those already agreed on. The good news is that last year the loss of EU funds was virtually zero, as stressed yesterday by Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou. He explained that by the end of 2007, 24.37 billion euros or 75.18 percent of total public spending (EU and state resources) had been absorbed (up from 58 percent in 2006), while the value of the contracts signed amounted to 107.33 percent of total spending. Ministry programs recorded average fund absorption reaching 74.25 percent, up from 57.7 percent in 2006, while regional programs also rose to 77.38 percent from 58.5 percent year-on-year. However, certain programs such as those for the railways, fisheries, the environment, culture and health have seen absorption stay below 70 percent, while some others, such as competitiveness, education and employment, are close to 80 percent. The Environment and Public Works Ministry in particular reported the absorption of 2.12 billion euros of national and EU resources last year, overtaking even 2004, when the Olympic Games were held. «The acceleration in resource absorption confirms the effectiveness and the consistency of government policy as far as CSF III is concerned,» said Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis. «This has come about after hard, persistent, methodical and well-organized work over the last three-and-a-half years. However, the major delays of the period from 2000-March 2004 render necessary the continuation of the effort at the same pace in 2008, too, for the full utilization of EU resources,» he added. Nevertheless, the risk of losing resources is still real, even with the improved absorption rates that came from the revisions of programs, the retroactive inclusion of projects that had been implemented exclusively with national resources, and the increase in the EU’s participation in the funding of some programs.