OPINION

Editorial

Last July, Prime Minister Costas Simitis publicly voiced his concerns over the utilization of third Community Support Framework (CSFIII) fiscal assistance, issuing a recommendation to government services to speed up the absorption of funds. Former government spokesman Dimitris Reppas had then admitted that procedures for submitting programs for approval under CSFIII were relatively time-consuming. Five months have passed since then, and the ministerial committee only confirmed yesterday that the problem remains. The prime minister again asked that procedures be sped up, while National Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis announced a series of measures. In other words, the head of the government and the responsible minister indirectly admitted that the five-month period since the recommendations in July has gone by without anything being achieved, which means that requisite changes for the absorption of the EU funds are once again promoted at the eleventh hour. It is an open secret that this delay is partially due to the fact that the procedures for submitting programs to the CSFIII, which were designed by Deputy Economy Minister Christos Pachtas, perfectly safeguarded public interest against the EU but were so complicated that the various bodies and municipalities were unable to fulfill them. Eventually, these foolproof procedures jeopardized the proposals for subsidy. Therefore, a large part of the last big Community aid to Greece, aiming at real convergence with the EU, went unexploited. Christodoulakis’s proposals aim to simplify these procedures so as to pave the way for the submission of programs to the CSF and to enable interested parties to get the necessary environmental approval. Needless to say, however, these measures should have been incorporated a long time ago, instead of being adopted at the last moment. Apart from the lack of planning betrayed by the delay, the hastiness with which the changes are now being promoted contains the danger that monitoring procedures may become so loose that the approved programs will later be rejected under EU controls. Given the importance of CSFIII for the country, and the need to avoid blunders like the land register project, the government has to make sure that EU funds are fully absorbed and that programs go through some monitoring process. Given the time constraint, this double task appears daunting. But the government has only itself to blame for the pressure.