The government hopes that investment projects subsidized under the European Union’s Fourth Community Support Framework (CSF IV) will start to be implemented in April, after a speedy conclusion of preparatory work. «Preparatory procedures for the activation of operational programs are expected to be completed within the first quarter of 2008,» Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis told reporters after an Inner Cabinet meeting. CSF IV, which covers the period 2007-2013, has a total budget of -36.4 billion, including national participation, of which 42 percent is to be earmarked for infrastructure projects, 21 percent for innovation and digital convergence, 14 percent for education, 12 percent for employment and 4 percent for healthcare infrastructure projects. Implementation will start with the so-called «bridge» projects, which commenced during CSF III and will be continued under CSF IV. They number 189, with a total budget of -12.8 billion, of which 50 percent will come from CSF IV. Alogoskoufis said the Greek CSF program was the first to be approved by the EU among the 15 pre-enlargement members. He added that the absorption of funds under CSF III, which can continue for two years after its formal conclusion, that is until the end of 2008, had improved spectacularly and now stood at 75 percent. Nevertheless, Alogoskoufis noted that there remained a further -8 billion to be absorbed by the end of the year, when projects approved totaled -6.7 billion. This will require Greece to ask for an extension of the deadline for projects additional to those delayed by last summer’s devastating forest fires. Separately, Regional Policy Commissioner Danuta Hubner indirectly blamed previous governments for the delays in the implementation of CSF III. «The delays recorded in approvals of the 2000-2006 operational programs and in preparing an appropriate national legislative framework, continuing weaknesses in the case of some final beneficiaries regarding the administration of projects and the complex operational and economic nature of some works were among the main causes of difficulties noted in the implementation of CSF III projects in Greece,» she said in reply to a question by Greek Left Coalition Eurodeputy Dimitris Papadimoulis.