EU package goes out the window

The rate at which Greece is absorbing funds from the EU’s Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII) has long been a cause for concern. Only a year ahead of the end of the seven-year program (2000-2006), Greece has absorbed a paltry 36.2 percent of the designated funds – barely a third of the European Union money it had access to. The big challenge for the New Democracy government will be to exploit the remaining time – this next year – plus an additional two-year period as foreseen in EU regulations. The conservative administration is pushing hard to reallocate funds from lagging projects to programs that score faster implementation rates in order to minimize fund losses. The first priority is to avoid an official cancellation of European subsidies. About half a billion euros were saved, at least temporarily, after a government revision last month. It is disappointing as well as irksome to look at the sectors most badly hit by delays. The much-hyped «information society» ranks at the bottom of the table with a scant 22 percent absorption rate. The environment, another advertised priority of the Socialist administration of Costas Simitis, fares slightly better with 27 percent. There is little doubt that the responsibility for this embarrassing situation lies with the PASOK administrations, who managed to squander four of the six years. But PASOK’s failure does not change the fact that the absorption rate during conservative rule has failed to take off. Similarly, it cannot make up for the fact that Greece has been unable to launch projects that could push up the absorption rate if not near the 100 percent target then at least close to a more decent 80 or 90 percent. The government must put an end to this unacceptable situation. If the state apparatus cannot hammer out the necessary programs and in a timely fashion, as it has failed to do for the past 15 years, then it should pass on the task to private companies – both Greek and foreign. Billions of euros are being wasted, and no one is being called to account for the damage.