Greece did not manage to absorb a single euro from the EU’s fruit and vegetables in schools scheme because no tender was submitted to a call, a European Commission spokesperson confirmed to euractiv.com.
The European Commission recently announced the absorption rates of a €150 million programme, which aimed to distribute fruits and vegetables in schools for the 2015 -2016 period.
The EU-funded scheme provides school children with fruits and vegetables, aiming to encourage good eating habits in young people and promote a healthier lifestyle.
Bulgaria, Hungary, and Lithuania have absorbed all the funds earmarked for them, while Cyprus absorbed 84.8% and Croatia 96.9%.
EURACTIV was informed that Greece was the only EU country that did not absorb any amount from the €3.1 million to which it was entitled.
An indifferent government
The main opposition right-wing New Democracy party reacted strongly and blamed the government for being incapable of absorbing crucial EU funds.
“The Greek government exhausts all funds in populism,” New Democracy MEP Manolis Kefalogiannis (EPP) said in a statement.
The MEP added that when Syriza was in the opposition, it accused the then government of creating a situation in which children were fainting in schools due to the economic crisis.
“This government is incompetent and indifferent,” Kefalogiannis warned.
Commission: No tender
But the European Commission gives another explanation of the story.
Contacted by EURACTIV, a Commission spokesperson confirmed that Greece notified the EU executive of its intention to participate in the school fruits and vegetables scheme during the 2015/2016 school year, which prompted an allocation of €3.143 million for Athens under the scheme.
“The Commission services have accompanied Greece all along the process just as they do with every other member state. However, no tenders were submitted to the call to select a body to supply fruit and vegetables,” the EU official said, adding that this led to the scheme not being implemented due to these external reasons.
The Commission spokesperson also stressed that the allocations occur every year and this does not impact in any way Greece’s next allocation should it want to participate in the new school milk and fruit scheme.
The EU official went further, emphasising that what happened with this particular scheme should not be seen in isolation of other projects supported by EU structural funds.
“For the financing period 2007-2013, for which the closure is happening at the end of March 2017, Greece has an absorption rate of 100%. This is the highest number,” the official concluded.