Crețu: Austria and Germany are still recycling Marshall Plan funds

Commissioner Crețu stressed that the EU was trying to maximise the impact of the financial instruments. [OPEN DAYS/ Flickr]

The European cohesion policy can be inspired by the post-World War II Marshall Plan model and achieve by 2023 added value of 3-4 euros for every euro invested in the 2014-2020 period, Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Crețu told EURACTIV Greece in an interview.

Crețu stressed that the EU was trying to maximise the impact of the financial instruments and that there are countries where from one euro invested, five euros will be provided at the end of the day.

The Romanian politician underlined that Austria and Germany are still recycling the funds from the Plan.

“We can have this Marshall Plan model. Austria and Germany are still recycling this money, using it from this Marshall Plan which was done seventy years ago or so. I think it’s very important to have these [countries] in mind,” she noted.

Advisory hub

Cities are expected to play a key role in public investments in the post-2020 period. In an effort to facilitate the cities’ access to the new financial instruments, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank introduced URBIS.

URBIS is a new advisory hub, addressed to local authorities interested in implementing the urban agenda goals with the proper use of financial instruments.

Speaking to EURACTIV Greece on the sidelines of a presentation of URBIS in Rotterdam, Commissioner Crețu said, “We know it is very hard for a manager of a city, for a local authority to have the know-how of combining structural funds with strategy funds, with COSME, with LIFE”.

She underlined that money is not the only thing that mattered. “Administrative capacity is more important than money because in many cases we have money that is waiting in Brussels, but we don’t receive a high-quality project to be eligible”.

Cretu believes that URBIS could support this capacity building guidance or advice on how to pull resources together.

“It’s very important to combine public and private funds because public money will never be enough for the needs that the cities have,” she emphasised.

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Floods in Attica region

Last month, deadly flash floods hit the region of Attica in Greece, killing 23 people.

The Commission and the Greek authorities are now exploring ways to mobilise the Solidarity Fund and provide people in need with the necessary assistance.

“I spoke by phone with all the ministers, members of the European Parliament and I made very clear that Greece should submit an application within twelve weeks of the occurrence of the disaster providing evidence of the damages.”

The problem is that Attica is one of the richest if not the richest region in Greece and the threshold [for the Solidarity Fund to be triggered] is a bit higher as the damages should be over €1.2 billion.

But Crețu said she stands ready to show flexibility to address this critical situation.

“I made very clear that I am very much ready to change the Operational Programmes if needed in order for the Greek authorities to redirect some money, because they have 75 million for Attika for natural disaster and climate change that can be used,” she said, adding that Greece has already applied for the Solidarity Fund for seven occasions and the executive has paid almost €150 million.

The EU official also referred to the Thessaloniki metro, whose construction has been stalled for more than a decade now. The construction started in June 2006 but was put on hold due to archaeological discoveries and administrative deficiency of previous governments.

The Syriza-led government dusted off the project and has shown willingness to speed up its implementation.

“I need Greece to accelerate the implementation. My dream is to inaugurate at least part of the Thessaloniki metro. After I saw that the Tempi was made possible, maybe this can also be possible,” Crețu commented, referring to another project – a series of tunnels connecting Athens and Thessaloniki – which had also been delayed for six years.