Bulgaria Feels Cheated as EU 'Punishes' It for Its Fiscal ProwessBulgaria in EU | December 5, 2011, Monday // 13:00| views
Photo by Warsaw Business Journal
Bulgaria, the poorest EU member state, is said to feel cheated as the EU institutions are about to seal a new policy allowing six other member states, which are struggling financially, to be able to co-fund projects with much less money.
"Countries which maintain a strict financial discipline should not be punished and those that do not maintain the discipline should not be rewarded," said a senior Bulgarian diplomat, as quoted by EurActiv.
"We are not in a position to block this legislation," he added a day after the European Parliament voted in favor of the new proposal, stressing that Bulgaria will keep its position "in principle"
EurActiv reminds that the European Commission proposed last summer to increase the EU co-financing in cohesion, fisheries and rural development policies for countries that have received financial assistance under the balance of payments support mechanism - Romania, Latvia and Hungary- or under the European Financial Stability Facility - Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
This does not offer the six countries more money, but it enables them to "actually implement" some EU projects that would otherwise never be put in place, because of the inability of the countries to provide the remaining funds needed in the co-financing process.
In practice, Brussels has increased its co-financing rate by 10 percentage points.
For example, the EC will provide a maximum of 95% project financing in the case of Greece – from a previous 78% .
The Greek government would not need to provide the 15% usually requested to member states, but only up to 5% of the cost of a project.
In Ireland, the co-financing rate of the EU was only 50% and it will increase until a maximum of 60%, given its regions are richer and more competitive already.
According to an EU source, the deal that will be officially agreed between the ministers from all EU countries has already been struck and little if any is expected to change by 12 December.
"A change of the situation is not envisaged soon, but Bulgaria keeps its position also for the next multi-annual financial framework and for the future," the diplomat added.
Bulgaria criticized the move as it did not understand why those countries which did spend the allocated EU funds were "punished" by not being offered the 95% co-financing alternative.
"EU funds are seen as a gold mine by new entrants in the EU, such as Romania and Bulgaria, according to EU sources. Despite the potential lying under the "mountain of money", as a Romanian saying would put it, Romania continues to have the lowest fund absorption rate in the EU," states EurActiv in its article.
"In some member states it was hard for countries to get projects done because there was a liquidity problem," an EU official is quoted as saying.
Although Bulgaria is the poorest EU country, it is excluded from the beneficiaries because its macroeconomic indicators are stable.
Commenting on the adoption of the law by the EP, president of the European Commission, Jos? Manuel Barroso said:
"Today we have taken an important step on the path to European recovery. I am glad that the Parliament acted so quickly and agreed to our proposal. This measure is Europe's expression of solidarity with and support for Member States implementing painful economic adjustment programmes. They currently do not have much space for investing in growth and jobs. Our measure will inject into those economies funding essential for boosting their competitiveness and employment."
Bulgarian daily Dnevnik quoted Prime Minister Boyko Borisov as saying that he is strongly against any support given to the bailout countries by reducing the ratio of national financing for EU-sponsored projects.
To the contrary, those who needed to be stimulated are those who respect the financial discipline, Borissov said. "If this ratio is to be lowered, then it should be lowered for all countries."
MEP Danuta Huebner (EPP, Poland), rapporteur and Regional Development Committee chair, said that "the Parliament wants this derogation to apply as soon as possible".
"Swift actions to help those hit hard by the crisis have been our priority. A temporary rise in co-financing ceilings will not affect total EU regional funding in the Member States but will allow funds to be concentrated on completing some projects and thus reduce the pressure on national budgets," Huebner said.
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