OPINION

An opportunity not to be missed

The decisions reached at the recent European Union summit regarding the bloc’s 2007-2013 budget were exceptionally favorable for our country. They reaffirmed an existing decision not to change the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) until 2014; and Greece was declared the beneficiary of 20.1 billion euros for that period. This means that we will receive an average of 3 billion euros per year from EU coffers – a sum that represents 1.8 percent of our current gross domestic product (GDP) – which will help create a stable framework for growth. However, ensuring that this sum is actually disbursed will be a serious challenge and calls for a radical change in the mentality of state officials and the harnessing of all our skills to make sure that a victory on paper is transformed into an actual growth boost for our economy. Whoever has doubts about the magnitude of this feat need only consider the paltry figure of 35 percent, which represents the proportion of funds received from the Third Community Support Framework that Greece actually managed to absorb. The fact that it was almost exclusively PASOK «reformists» who squandered the massive potential of previous years may relieve the current regime of the blame for that period but does not guarantee it success in absorbing all the funds from the new EU budget. There is no point in deluding ourselves. All Greece’s governments have so far failed in this mission. What is needed is a break from the mentality of being thankful for whatever we are given. But such a radical shift in approach will not be brought about by simply declaring good intentions. If this new opportunity is to be grasped, we need a plan, more insight and a lot of effort; this is the only way to ensure that programs meet EU specifications and that we do not delay in producing supplementary funding when necessary. We have had bad experiences; we know the risks. Any justifications for inadequate fulfillment of goals will no longer be tolerated, especially in view of the fact that the summit decided to impose upon Greece and Portugal – the laggards of the original 15 EU member states – the same conditions as for the bloc’s 10 new members: a time frame of three years instead of two for programs to absorb European funding. What more do we want?