European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu participated in the emergency meeting of the European parliament‘s Regional Development Committee to discuss Commission proposals to support Greece.
Cretu made the following statement: “Today I participated in an emergency meeting of the Committee on Regional Development in the European Parliament to discuss the Commission’s proposals to help Greece fully benefit from the European Structural and Investment Funds. Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis and I had presented these measures in the Commission’s Plan for Jobs and Growth in Greece on July 15.
During 2014-2020, the EU will invest more than €35 billion in Greece, among which €20 billion from the European Structural and Investment Funds. These funds are a key source of financing for the real economy and made a major contribution to strengthen Greece’s economic, social and territorial cohesion. In the current difficult times, they play an important role in paving the way for a prosper future. Our proposals, aiming to address the liquidity issue hampering the successful implementation of Cohesion Policy in the country, are now in the hands of the European Parliament and the Council.
As I explained to the Members of the European Parliament, I cannot stress enough the importance of adopting these exceptional measures as soon as possible. Public funds need to be released to allow EU funds to flow and support investment for a swift, tangible and positive impact on the Greek economy. These exceptional measures are relevant to both the 2007-2013 and the 2014-2020 programming periods. For 2014-2020 we proposed to increase the rate of initial pre-financing for Cohesion Policy programs by 7 percentage points.
This budget neutral measure will make an additional €1 billion available over two years – €500 million in 2015 and €500 million in 2016 – which would help kickstart investments on the ground. For 2007-2013, we proposed that the last 5% of EU payments that would normally be retained until the end of 2017, are made available to the Greek authorities right away. We also proposed to completely remove the need for national co-financing – so an EU co-financing rate of 100% would apply for the 2007-2013 period. It means that an additional €500 million would be immediately available after the agreement of the European Parliament and the Council. This would relieve the strain on the Greek budget, saving nearly €2 billion overall.
Commission services are working closely with the Greek authorities to ensure the best use of the European Structural and Investment Funds, as it is not just a matter of spending the money, but of spending it wisely. Together we will ensure that investments are targeted at key growth-generating areas such as Research and Innovation or the support to the development and internationalization of small Greek businesses. We have always stood by Greece, both with financial support and technical assistance, and we will continue to do so in the future. I will go to Greece again this autumn to exchange with the stakeholders in charge of the shared management of EU funds. We will work hand in hand to make the most out of these new opportunities.”