ZAGREB, December 1, 2018 – Croatia is opposed to the European Commission’s changes in EU funds regulations. One of them is that the programming of investments financed with EU funds in the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the period 2021-2027 is done only for the first five years, while decisions on investments for the last two years would be made after a mid-term review, Croatian Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac said in Brussels on Friday.
“The Commission is in favour of discussing implementation effects after five years of the new financial perspective, and only then deciding how much funds will or won’t be allocated for the remaining two years. We consider that proposal absolutely unacceptable,” said Žalac.
“We want a seven-year period with concrete allocations so that we can know precisely how to plan and prepare programmes,” said the minister who attended a meeting of the General Affairs Council which discussed the cohesion policy for the next seven-year period.
Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Cretu said the proposed shortening of the programming period was due to the need for flexibility. She said that previous experience showed that the current framework was not ideal because it was impossible to predict every new challenge and need.
The EC proposal is supported by the richer countries, net contributors, while those that receive more money from the EU budget than they pay oppose it. “For the past two years, the Council has been discussing simplification of rules and procedures for project implementation. I believe that this proposal is contrary to that. I think this is an attempt by net contributors to the EU budget to exert pressure on undeveloped countries, net recipients,” said Žalac.
The EC has said that during a review in 2025 it will take into account changes in the socio-economic situation, new challenges identified in the context of the European Semester and the programme success achieved.
With certain restrictions, funds within one programme can be transferred from one investment priority to another without the Commission’s official approval, the EC says in its proposal.
Žalac reiterated Croatia’s position on the Multiannual Financial Framework proposal which the EC published in early May. Croatia shares that position with all countries that are members of an informal group called “Friends of Cohesion”, which held a meeting in Bratislava on Thursday.
Croatia cannot accept cuts in cohesion funds. In the next MFF, Croatia is expected to get 5.6% less funds than in the current multiannual framework.
The country is also against an increase in national co-financing from 15% to 30%, as well as against the shortening of the deadline for the implementation of projects from three to two years.
Croatia also cannot accept a reduction in project pre-financing, i.e. advance payments.
When it published its proposal, the EC called on member-countries to reach agreement on the matter by the end of the term of the current European Parliament, that is, by the spring of 2019, but now it is almost certain that that will not be possible and that a decision will be made after elections for the European Parliament.
The Multiannual Financial Framework proposal has already been discussed two times at the ministerial level, and heads of state or government will discuss it for the first time at the next EU summit on December 13-14.
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