EU threat over funds

The European Commission is threatening to temporarily cut off funding worth some 4 billion euros to Greece due to its slow response to calls for the implementation of a more effective scheme to monitor public works funded by the EU, according to an internal document made public yesterday. EU Regional Policy Commissioner Danuta Hubner sent a memorandum to the College of Commissioners within the last few weeks informing them that Greece had failed to live up to promises made by the PASOK government in 2001 to develop an improved mechanism to conduct and oversee building projects financed by EU funds allocated through the Community Support Framework (CSF). She added that checks by the Regional Policy Directorate in October 2003 had found that the government of then-Prime Minister Costas Simitis had made very little progress on the matter. Since New Democracy came to power in March last year, eight of the 22 measures that Simitis had pledged to adopt have been put in place. Hubner said Greek authorities had shown their «decisiveness» during this period and noted that the Public Works Ministry had pushed through three new laws relating to the system governing publicly funded projects over recent months. However, Hubner identified two key areas that needed improvement. One is bringing Greek law in line with EU regulations on public contracts; the other involves the handling of so-called «bridge projects,» those works left uncompleted within the funding and time frame provided by the second CSF and which were then – wrongly, in the opinion of the commissioner – transferred over to the third CSF. Hubner claimed that, in many cases, works which had absorbed the full amount of funding set aside for them in CSFII, were then included in the program of projects to be funded by CSFIII as well. Hubner made her complaints known to the Greek government at the end of last year and the disciplinary process, which will involve the suspension of funds, is set to begin by the end of February this year. However, Public Works Ministry sources told Kathimerini that they thought a compromise between the government and the Commission could be reached, since virtually all the legal steps needed to satisfy the EU had been taken.

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