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10/12/2016

Greece ‘lost in translation’ over EU funds

Euro & Finance

Greece ‘lost in translation’ over EU funds

Former Greek Minister of Economy Giorgos Stathakis, and Romanian Commissioner Corina Cre?u.

[European Commission]

The European Commission denies a Greek claim that it rejected an official request by Athens for an extension of the 2007-2013 Multiannual Financial Framework. In the meantime, the debt-ridden country risks losing 1.4 billion euros.

Due to political instability and mismanagement, cash-strapped Greece still requires 1.4 billion euro in funds from the 2007-2013 MFF, due to expire on 31 December 2015.

In recent months, Greek authorities have discussed the possibility of asking the European Commission for an extension period, in order to implement the projects which were eligible for the MFF between 2007 and 2013.

Asked by EurActiv if there was such a possibility, a European Commission source had said that it was “too early” to discuss that scenario.

Greeks say made a request    

On 20 August, Giorgos Stathakis, the Minister of Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism in the Syriza-led government, submitted an official document in the Greek parliament in reply to a written question by Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) lawmaker Vasilis Gkegkeroglou.

According to this document, which was co-signed by Alexandros Charitsis, Secretary General of Public Investments under Tsipras, it was clearly stated that Greece “has already received a negative answer from the EU to the request for a small extension for the MFF period 2007-2013”.

“The financial crunch, and lack of liquidity have negatively affected the implementation of projects that are integrated into the operational programs for the period 2007-2013, which officially ends on December 31,” reads the document.

Commission didn’t receive any request

“The Commission has not received an official request to extend the eligibility period for expenditure under the 2007-2013 Cohesion Policy programmes from the Greek authorities,” a European Commission spokesman told EurActiv yesterday (8 September).

He added that the EU executive continues to work towards a successful implementation of the 2007-2013 programmes “within the current time frame”, in line with the conclusions of the European Council of 18-19 December 2014.

The conclusions state: “The Commission will work closely with the Member States concerned to find solutions to maximise the use of commitments under the 2007-2013 MFF period and recognises the desirability of delivering long-term projects in the years ahead using the flexibility of the existing rules”.

On 15 July, Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis and Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Cre?u presented the Jobs and Growth Plan for Greece aimed at addressing the liquidity issue currently hampering the successful implementation of 2007-2013 Cohesion Policy programmes.

The proposed measures provide the application of a 100% EU co-financing rate, which would make €500 million immediately available on the ground, and would benefit the Greek budget by around €2 billion in savings.

“These proposals are now in the hands of the European Parliament, where they were approved on 3 September, without amendments, in the Committee on Regional Development, and of the Council,” EU spokesman told EurActiv.

Background

Eurozone leaders reached an agreement on a programme to save Greece from bankruptcy after 17-hour talks on 13 July.

>>Read: Eurozone reaches ‘laborious’ tentative deal on Greece

If approved by parliaments, this will be the third rescue programme for Greece in five years. It will be managed by the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the eurozone permanent crisis resolution fund that was initially set up five years ago in an effort to save Athens from bankruptcy.

Here is a look at what Greece must do:

  • Request continued support from the International Monetary Fund after its current IMF program expires in early 2016.
  • Streamline consumer tax and broaden the tax base to increase revenue.
  • Multiple reforms to the pension system to make it financially viable.
  • Safeguard the independence of the country's statistics agency.
  • Introduce laws by Wednesday that would ensure "quasi-automatic spending cuts" if the government misses its budget surplus targets.
  • Overhaul the civil justice system to make it more efficient and reduce costs.
  • Carry out product market reforms that include allowing stores to open on Sundays, broadening sales periods, opening up pharmacy ownership, reforming the bakeries and milk market and opening up closed and protected professions, including ferry transport.
  • Privatise the electricity transmission network operator unless alternative measures with the same effect can be found.
  • Overhaul the labour market. This includes reviewing collective bargaining, industrial action and collective dismissal regulations.
  • Tackle banks' non-performing loans and strengthen bank governance.
  • Significantly increase the privatization program, transferring 50 billion euros worth of Greek assets to an independent fund, based in Greece, to carry out the privatizations.
  • Modernize, strengthen and reduce the costs of Greek administration.
  • Allow members of the three institutions overseeing Greece’s reforms - the European Central Bank, IMF and European Commission, previously known as the 'troika" - to return to Athens. The government must consult with the institutions on all relevant draft legislation before submitting it to public consultation or to parliament.
  • Reexamine, with a view to amend, legislation passed in the last six months that is deemed to have backtracked on previous bailout commitments.