Charitsis on how Greece came top for absorption of EU funds for 3rd year running

“Our primary concern at the economy ministry is to channel real liquidity into the economy and ensure there is sufficient funding for the construction of necessary infrastructure and to support businesses,” Alternate Economy Minister Alexis Charitsis said in an exclusive statement to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) on Tuesday. The minister was commenting on Greece’s top ranking for the absorption of available EU funding for the third consecutive year.

“Our effort has yielded more than 11 billion euros for the Greek economy over the last three years and significantly changed Greece’s image in Europe. In addition, thanks to our very close cooperation with the European Investment Bank we have brought a lot of new capital to the economy and rapidly activated the Juncker Plan, achieving second place in Europe for the use of funds here also,” Charitsis added.

After the government took over it 2015, the minister said, it had raced to reform the existing National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) 2007-2013 programmes and succeeded in not losing even a single euro available to Greece, in addition to activating the current programmes and excelling in their absorption in Europe.

“In 2018 we will continue even more intensively in the same direction with more programmes to support businesses and municipalities but also with new, targeted financing instruments for the effective support of a series of sectors of the economy,” Charitsis said.

Talking to the ANA, government sources noted that Greece has used 25 pct of the funding available from the new European structural and investment funds for 2014-2020, achieving the highest absorption rate in Europe. Greece also ranked first in 2016 with a record absportion of 11.3 pct in that year, the sources said, when the previous governments had achieved an absorption rate of just 1.5 pct over an equivalent period of the 2007-2013 NSRF programmes.

As a result of this effort, the sources told ANA, a host of projects were being implemented throughout the country, adding infrastructure that was crucial to health and quality of life, such as the Iraklio water supply networks or the Pamvotida Lake water treatment plant. The money had also been used for crucial actions to support socially vulnerable groups, to hire teachers and open schools on time, provide places in nursery schools and finance reforms in healthcare, they added.

The 100 pct absorption of funds available under the 2007-2013 programmes, meanwhile, had resulted in the completion of the major motorways that had been at a standstill for 15-plus years, the sources said.

Juncker Plan and European Investment Bank

Talking to the ANA, the sources said that the government was not only focusing on the European Community funds but was also working closely with the EIB, signing agreements worth some five billion euros in 2016-2017 that translated into an additional two billion euros for the Greek economy in 2017 alone. Over the coming three years, they added, agreements were planned with the EIB worth seven billion euros that will trigger investments exceeding 20 billion euros, according to the bank’s estimates.

Projects financed by these agreement included the construction of line 4 on the Athens metro, support of municipalities to build infrastructure and projects to support businesses, such as the 400-million-euro Trade Finance Facility for small and medium-sized enterprises. The close cooperation developed by the economy ministry and Charitsis personally with the EIB had allowed Greece to quickly activate the Juncker Plan, so that it now ranked second overall among EU member-states for the absorption of funds from the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). Greece has already signed agreements representing 1.7 billion euros for new projects under the Juncker Plan, which translate into investments worth more than 5.7 billion euros, the ANA sources said.