Greece still poorest

BRUSSELS – The huge inflows of money from the European Union in the shape of Community Support Framework (CSF) funds have benefited Greece greatly but the country still lags behind others in putting the money to good use, according to an interim report by the European Commission. The report, to be made public in Brussels today, will help shape the dialogue on the reformation of EU regional policies and the future of the CSFs. This future does not look rosy for Greece. The effect of the CSFs, especially the third which covers 2000-2006, has led to an influx of funds that provided a 2.2 percent boost to GDP. This must be compared with Portugal, whose GDP (which is already larger than that of Greece) has benefited by an additional 3.5 percent, probably through better use of funds for development. But comparisons can also be made in the way in which countries have spent funds. Greece has placed priority on infrastructure projects and has watched its GDP grow from 65.9 percent of the EU average in 1995 to 67.7 percent of the average in 2000, when CSFIII began. Ireland, on the other hand, chose to invest EU funds in education, training and other ways to improve the economy’s work force. This resulted in GDP leaping from 93.2 percent of the EU average in 1995 to 115.2 percent in 2000. Greece remains the EU’s poorest member, with some of its regions stuck under 50 percent of the EU average. This includes Epirus, the poorest region in the EU. Other regions close to 50 percent of the EU average are Eastern Macedonia, Thrace, the Peloponnese and Western Greece. In many regions, per capita GDP actually shrank between 1995 and 2000. In an EU with 25 members, the people of nine of Greece’s 13 regions will be among the 25 percent of Europe’s poorest citizens. This involves the previously mentioned regions in addition to the Ionian and Northern Aegean islands, Crete, Thessaly and Western Macedonia. This larger Europe also constitutes the greatest danger to the future of EU funds. With enlargement and the relative drop in the EU’s average GDP, the regions of Attica, central mainland Greece, the Southern Aegean and, possibly, Central Macedonia, will exceed 75 percent of the EU average in 2006 and will lose, albeit gradually, Target 1 funds, the most lucrative ones of structural policy.

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