Cabinet sees need to speed up EU funds

The Cabinet met yesterday to discuss the 50-billion-euro package of EU funds known as the Third Community Support Framework (CFSIII) and ways to speed up projects so that contracts can be signed and the money start flowing. With local and regional elections due in October, the government is particularly keen that citizens begin to see the results of CSFIII by then. A variety of measures agreed upon led to the curbing of the powers of Deputy Economy Minister Christos Pachtas over CSF projects. «Today, less than a year after the programs started, their progress is strong. There are teething problems, because we had a new framework set up in cooperation with the EU, but these difficulties were overcome. The programs are running at a regular rate,» PM Costas Simitis said after the meeting. «What now needs to be done is for the drawing of funds to increase, the projects be completed and the money paid. The projects must be completed so that the citizens can see results,» he added. Simitis said that «65 percent of programs foreseen by the CSF budget had been tendered, 1,800 projects (or 32 percent of those budgeted) had been approved for funding, contracts had been signed for 20 percent of the budget and each month about 250 projects were approved.» He called on «all agencies and business to contribute toward carrying out CSFIII.» The Cabinet agreed on measures to speed up funding procedures, an institutional framework for public works, the avoidance of overlapping contracts and close cooperation with the EU. Simitis, over Pachtas’s objections, agreed with Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou’s request to be given supervision of all self-financed public works. National Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis expressed criticism of his deputy by calling for the speed up and simplification of procedures for withdrawing CSF funds. «There is a discrepancy between announcements and the expectations that have been cultivated,» Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas reportedly said during the meeting.