According to the data announced by the ministry, the absorption rate reached 58% and the signed agreements (legal commitments) covered 90% of the total public expenditure. The respective percentages for the Sectoral Operational Programmes are 57.7% and 88.6% and 58.5% and 93.3% for the Regional Operational Programmes. Moreover, in 2006 there will be no loss of community resources due to the “ ν+2” rule.
As far as the signing of agreements for the 3rd CSF is concerned, this may be effected until the closing date of the expenditure’s eligibility in line with the provisions of article 30(2) of Regulation 1260/1999 of the E.U. In accordance with this article, the closing date of the expenditure’s eligibility is determined in the Funds’ decisions on participation, i.e. until 31/12/2008 (or 30/4/2009 for state funding). In other words, it is possible to sign agreements in 2007 and 2008, since the relevant contacts have been made with the E.U. so as this possibility is used.
As noted, the success of the implementation progress of the 3rd CSF and of the Community Initiatives results from the systematic efforts that have been made by the Government and all involved parties.
It is also stressed out that the initial implementation period of the 3rd CSF has been characterized by long delays, and in March 2004 –50 months after the programme was set in force – the absorption rate reached 23% and the signing rate of agreements covered 40% of the total public expenditure. As far as community initiatives are concerned, the absorption rate was 7% and reached 52% (average) in late 2006.
Since March 2004 up to present, a coordinated and intensive effort has been made in order to confront the weaknesses and utilize the 3rd CSF efficiently, the Ministry of National Economy and Finance (MNEF) notes. Within this framework, measures are taken and promoted for the resolution of the problems that had a negative impact on the progress of the 3rd CSF, e.g:
- Evaluation and approval by the E.U. of the management and audit system of the 3rd CSF.
- Elimination of the chronic doubts raised by the E.U. with regard to legitimacy issues in the awarding and management of public procurement agreements.
Moreover, within this framework a number of administrative and legislative measures was taken at an operational level for the rationalization and acceleration of the 3rd CSF as well as for the confrontation of the accumulated risk of losing resources.
MNEF also points out that the effectiveness of the improving actions of the Management and Audit System of the 3rd CSF is proven by the official reports of the European Courts of Auditors.
In line with the annual report of the European Court of Auditors dated 2006 – referring to the accounting year of 2005 – regarding management of the community resources by the European Commission and member states, significant improvement in the image of Greece is observed in contradiction with the reservations that were expressed in the annual report for the financial year 2003, concerning the system applied in Greece with regard to the European Regional Development Find (ERDF) as well as concerning operation of the audit system for the Cohesion Fund. It is characteristically reported that it is the first time in many years when Greece is not even once referred to concerning informalities or illegal actions in the management of resources by the structural funds.
"Following long lasting negotiations with the European Commission, we managed to rationalize the 3rd CSF’s programmes so as to minimize the risk of loosing community resources. The final agreement provided for a set of measures to accelerate absorption and assurance of community resources where the increase of the community financing rate of the 3rd CSF’s operational programmes is encompassed as well as determination of the “bridge-projects” to be smoothly implemented via the 2007-2013 National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF)”.
"The acceleration in the absorption of resources confirms the effectiveness of the government’s policy as far as the 3rd CSF is concerned. However, the long delays since 2000 until March 2004 impose the need of continuing our effort at the same pace in 2007 and 2008 aiming at integrated utilization of community resources” the announcement concludes.