Archive for February, 2013
It is tough to win EU funds in Brussels for a country but it is way more stressful to spend it. Even more so to spend it in such a way that the country avoids a call from Brussels to give it back.
Slovakia is a great example. One of the „biggest winners in this money contest“ as put by PM Robert Fico of Social democrat Smer party, Bratislava had earned a promise of some 13 billion euro in cash for projects funded under the EU’s 2014 – 2020 budget.
The 960 billion package – so called financial perspective – was agreed by the bloc’s leaders on 8 February summit in Brussels after 26 hours of talks. „I haven’t slept a wink but it was worth it to stand up for these figures and fight for them, “Mr Fico told journalists at the post-summit briefing.
Back in Bratislava, he followed his praise for Slovakia’s diplomatic success by passionate arguments in favour of a quick revision of national public procurement rules in order to speed up the spending of Slovakia’s EU money from the closing financial period of 2007 – 2013.
Ironically, Slovakia is one of the slowest countries in spending EU funds, despite some 75 percent of public investments reported to be covered by the bloc’s cash.
Still, the move to change the procurement rules so quickly which the Smer party could do easily as the government party with a comfortable parliament majority had caused criticism by both opposition parties and some experts, pointing to previous cases of EU fund mismanagement and corruption allegations.
Indeed, Bratislava MUST spend over 1.5 billion euro just this very year if it does not want to lose it altogether but the question raised by many is whether this sort of stressful rush will lead to meaningful and corruption-free projects.
They should be meaningful not just because they will be co-financed during a very investment unfriendly period of deficit consolidation but mainly because all this money is tax payers’ money, despite some undoubtedly “foreign and therefore more lightheartedly spent and possibly even misspent” taste of it.
And they should be corruption-free not only due to the risks of Brussels taking the money back in case criminal allegations prove true (and Slovakia does have some sad history in this) but mainly because the corrupt manners and operations fuelled by public investment of Brussels origin eventually can and objectively do build up a much more serious obstacle in the country’s progress than lacking highways or other types of regional development projects.
Anyway, the new tendering rules have been in force for days now and we still have not heard of special tenders up for companies to file their bids.
However, we have just heard of a fresh red light from Brussels to Slovakia for using the existing “old” EU funds for concrete transport projects due to false payments.
It is quite a drudgery to spend the EU money. And stay clean. And handle the annoying Brussels bureaucracy (how could I get this far without mentioning it in the article about EU funds?)
Most of all - make a difference with the money.