OPINION

EU slap, again

The European Commission warning that it will refer the Greek government to the European Court – because of serious indications that the conservative administration has violated community legislation on public infrastructure projects and the equal treatment of bidders in the construction of the Kallidromou tunnel project – has shifted attention onto a chronic snag plaguing Greece’s relations with the Union. The problem, of course, is Greek officials’ conscious, unhesitating and repeated breach of European regulations on the joint funding of infrastructure works. Such maneuvers aim to either implement projects using EU money that has been designated for different purposes or to serve the interests of the administration’s business cronies. However, this unacceptable mentality not only takes a toll on Greece’s international image, it actually reaches further than that. When the government is found to have violated EU principles on funding, Brussels either freezes financing or demands the return of funds. This means that taxpayers shell out the price for the tardiness or corruption of state officials as projects are eventually carried out with money from the state budget. Sometimes the projects are not implemented at all – which is even worse, as contractors get lavish compensation in the form of taxpayer money, while the project is shelved. That is what happened this time. The Commission in July notified the New Democracy administration not to sign the contract for the construction of the controversial Kallidromou tunnel until Brussels had decided whether the procedures were compatible with EU legislation. Athens ignored the Commission warning and in August signed a deal with a new contractor. Now it’s the taxpayers who will have to pay the price. This situation has to stop. EU project funding is subject to strict rules. Voters naturally demand of the government and other state officials that they know and adhere to these rules so that the country can draw the greatest benefit from community funding. There has to be an end to the irresponsible audacity of state officials who blatantly flaunt European law for their own hidden agendas and then pass the mammoth cost of their actions onto the backs of Greek taxpayers. It’s time political officials were held accountable for the economic repercussions of their decisions.