OPINION

Editorial

The government and the European Commission yesterday reached a compromise solution over the issue of EU funding for the nation’s land register. The solution seems to have more positive than negative aspects, meaning that we have escaped the worst. According to the original plan, the first phase, which should have already been completed, provided for 35,000 square kilometers to be registered at the cost of 45 billion drachmas. Instead, only 8,440 square kilometers have been registered at a cost which exceeds 94 billion. Invoking breach of contract and Article 24 of the EU treaty, Michel Barnier, the European Commissioner for the EU’s regional policy, refused EU funds to cover the budget excesses and demanded that Greece repay about 20 billion drachmas of the 34 billion it has received to the Community. The second negative aspect of the compromise is that the Commission has refused to finance the compilation of the land register for the remaining 26,500 square kilometers included in the first phase. A positive aspect of the political compromise is that Barnier agreed that the second stage of the land register will be funded through the Third Community Support Framework (CSF III). He did, however, set several conditions which bring Greece under a sort of supervision. The Greek government has to submit a new program which will be based on a greater share of national funds than before. Furthermore, the new program will be monitored by a committee of experts, a fact which shows that the Commission’s confidence in the government, at least as regards this program, has been blemished. Compiling a land register from scratch is, no doubt, a colossal project which becomes even more difficult due to the numerous outstanding legal issues. Moreover, the fact that it began with the listing of the problematic areas has delayed the procedures. However, lack of transparency and unjustified excesses have gone hand in hand with improper planning and poor administration. Responsibility for all this lies with the public works minister and the government in general. The prime minister has, in private, expressed his deep concerns over the risk of losing huge funds due to the failure of the state mechanism – of which he is in charge – to meet the new standards set by CSF III over the approval of programs and the release of funds.