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Unveiling the the ALDE group's so-called "Hercules Plan" yesterday (June 21), which he co-authored, Chatzimarkakis indicated that EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn believes such a plan is needed for Greece, Bulgaria and Romania.
"The question of absorption of EU money is a big issue for the commissioner responsible for cohesion funds. And he sees three countries that are not able to absorb EU funding in an appropriate manner," Chatzimarkakis said.
He said this was due to "the non-existent capacity of ministries to come up with proposals, but also to work on the programmes and to mend the problems in the country".
"So we have to use technical assistance to overcome the problems in all the three countries," the MEP added.
Chatzimarkakis said Commissioner Hahn had "hundreds of millions of euros in his portfolio for so-called 'technical assistance'. That means he can send people, experts, from the European Investment Bank, from the European Commission, from the member states, for a certain time, to the respective countries, to help the administration, to implement programmes and absorb money".
It remains unclear whether the leaders of countries like Bulgaria and Romania would accept losing some of their sovereignty in this manner, and in particular if such assistance would be linked to the creation of EU anti-corruption boards.
"That's the problem," Chatzmarkakis acknowledged. "All have the problem of being very proud, saying 'this cuts our sovereignty', although this is just not the case, of course," he said, adding that the programmes would still be presented by the government, but civil servants or experts would help implement the financial aspects.
He stressed that the programme would be critical to letting EU funds create jobs in struggling countries, saying critics "have to understand there is money here on the accounts. But the money can't pass to create jobs and help people there if politicians continue to behave like this".
Chatzmarkakis insisted that Greek, Bulgarian and Romanian politicians "should admit we have a problem here". He noted that concerns about sovereignty could be eased by limiting technical assistance to three years.
The MEP was cautiously optimistic on whether such a measure could be approved by the European Parliament. "It's a precedent, and parliamentarians will measure very carefully whether we should create a precedent. But looking at the deep crisis Greece is in, I think we will have a majority at least for Greece, and this precedent could of course pave the way for Bulgaria and Romania."
Following the publication of this article, the spokesperson of Commissioner Hahn called to stress that the responsibility for dealing with EU funds rests with member states, but the Commission stays ready to provide them with technical assistance upon request.