Parliament on Tuesday backed a set of one-off measures aimed at boosting the effective spending of €35 billion earmarked for Greece in the EU 2014-2020 budget. This includes €20 billion from the European structural and investment funds and €15 billion from agricultural funds.
MEPs followed the recommandation of Parliament's regional development committee and adopted the Commission's proposal unchanged, as a matter of urgency, by 586 votes to 87, with 21 abstentions. This fast-track procedure paves the way for the swift adoption of the measures by the Council and their immediate entry into force.
The measures are aimed at speeding up the implementation of EU funds to help Greece ensure that all the money available to it from the 2007-2013 programming period is used in time (before it expires at the end of 2017), and to help Greece meet the requirements for accessing all the EU funds available to it in the current programming period of 2014-2020.
The funding covers programming periods up to 2020. The amendment to the current regulation proposed by the Commission and agreed by Parliament allows some €500 million to be released as soon as the legislation is adopted and a further €800 million will be released in advance of the formal closure of the programmes in 2017. These special measures are neutral for the EU budget, as they will be implemented within the country allocations agreed in the current multi-financial framework for 2014-2020.
Ensuring that current projects are completed
Two specific measures allow Greece to finish projects which started under the 2007-2013 programming period by:
- removing the need for national co-financing because the EU contribution rate is raised to 100%;
- making available the total amount, including pre-financing and interim payments, immediately (otherwise the last 5% of EU payments would have had to be held back until 2017)
For the 2014-2020 period, Parliament agrees to
- increase by 7% the level of initial pre-financing available for cohesion policy programmes (this could make an additional €1 billion available).
Parliament agrees that these exceptional measures are justified by the unique situation in Greece, where the financial crisis has led to persistently negative growth and to serious liquidity problems. Public funds are lacking in particular for much-needed investment to boost growth and job creation.
In recent years, EU funds contributed to a number of investments, for example the bridge at Patras, the Athens metro system, Athens international airport, roads and technology centres.
Now that they have been backed by Parlialent, the measures have to be adopted by the Council before they can enter into force. The Greek authorities have established a mechanism to guarantee that the additional amounts made available under the period 2007-2013 are fully used by the beneficiaries and for the operations in the programmes and will report on the effectiveness of spending in 2016.
Procedure: ordinary legislative procedure (codecision)
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