Can the new government achieve its ambitious plans?
According to the announcement made by Finance Minister Zdravko Marić, this year Croatia should withdraw 78.5 percent more EU funds than last year. However, in reality, many tenders and procurement procedures are being delayed, there is a major shortage of staff needed, funds from the Social Fund have been blocked by the EU for six months and the real question is whether the government can achieve its ambitious goals and increase the amount of money withdrawn from the EU funds, reports Poslovni.hr on February 29, 2016.
Ivana Maletić (HDZ), Croatian member of the European Parliament, and Saša Bukovac, assistant director in the Sector for International Affairs of the Croatian Chamber of Economy, tried to answer some of these questions in a discussion on Croatian Radio earlier today. “It is certainly an ambitious plan that is not only possible to be achieved, but is actually absolutely necessary to be achieved”, said Maletić. With only 62 percent of funds used, Croatia is by far the worst EU member state when it comes to withdrawing money from EU funds.
“For a positive step forward it is necessary to do several things. We have already sent a request from the European Parliament to the European Commission to simplify competition procedures. Small and medium businesses simply do not have the capacity to keep track of everything which is demanded by the EU bureaucracy”, she pointed out. The state administration should be trained to become a guide for entrepreneurs, and it is necessary to improve the situation with the cadastral records because unresolved property issues are also one of the major obstacles.
“The new government has a lot of work to do, especially because of the large shortfall in utilization of funds made by the previous government. In 2015, out of 900 million euros only 400 million euros were withdrawn. We have constantly been withdrawing less money than was available and therefore at the end of this year they will take away some of the funds earmarked for Croatia, by my estimates about 200 million euros”, said Maletić.
It is hard to expect any real results in the first year, said Bukovac. Genuine changes will be needed because everything takes too long. The state should define short-term and long-term goals in terms of EU funds utilization, and special attention should be paid to major projects. Attention should also be paid to the issue of lack of expert staff, because too many people leave the public sector after they gain the necessary knowledge.