Istria Leader in EU Funds Absorption

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Istria is one of the most developed Croatian counties with a GDP of 24.9% above the Croatian average and an unemployment rate lower than the EU average. The rate of immigration to Istria is higher than the rate of emigration, which is why it is often called “little Ireland”, reports on March 12, 2019.

The economic and social development of Istria is a consequence of the successful absorption of EU funds and, in general, excellent cooperation with different European regions and European institutions. “Users from Istria have so far participated in more than 60 different programmes and through nearly one thousand European projects they have secured 3.2 billion kuna in grants,” said Istrian County prefect Valter Flego.

According to available data, money from EU funds has been invested mostly in agriculture and fisheries, entrepreneurship, science and research, energy and environment, transport, culture and education, employment and promotion of gender equality. In addition to the European projects, Istria is also very successful in cross-border programmes through which beneficiaries from the county have absorbed as much as 215 million kuna.

“Istrian County has some form of formalised cooperation with as many as five Italian regions, and through the partnership with them we have implemented a number of projects in the fields of culture, tourism, environmental protection and transport,” explains Flego.

While Croatia, with an average absorption rate of 29 per cent of EU funds, is at the bottom of the EU rankings, Istrian County is exceptionally successful in this regard. Flego explains that this should be attributed to the fact that Istria has systematically worked on strengthening project implementation capacities and has invested heavily in education on EU policies and funds. Over the last few years, about 600 people from Istria have been trained. Also, the county is continually informing all potential beneficiaries about the possibilities of project financing.

“To ensure greater EU funds utilisation, counties must be involved in planning future operational plans, which has not been the case so far. Exclusion of counties has led to the fact that it is impossible to build new homes for seniors or necessary maritime port infrastructure with money from EU funds. I hope that we will be able to plan such projects in the next budgetary period from 2021 to 2028,” said Prefect Flego, adding that Croatia had available almost nine billion euros in that period.

“That money is waiting for someone to take it. I hope the state will be smart enough not to hinder us and allow us to withdraw that money. Besides, Croatia must decentralise the management of EU funds. Such a model provides a degree of autonomy and influence in the process of defining strategic priorities and project selection. Who knows better what is needed than the people who live and work in the region in question?” asked prefect Flego.

More news about EU funds can be found in the Business section.

Translated from (reported by Snježana Bičak).


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