Minister reports on progress in EU fund phasing
Iztok Purič, the minister of development and cohesion policy, said that IT problems detected last year were being resolved, although he did not rule out a suspension of reimbursements from the EU budget.
"The audit pinpointed 27 key crisis points, and we have dealt with 22 of them," Purič said, adding that the European Commission was aware of the problems so there might be a potential suspension of reimbursements.
However, this will not jeopardise EU-subsidised projects because the advance funds are secured from the national budget.
"Fact is that data from the first quarter of the year indicate progress and that the situation is far from being disastrous," said Purič.
Purič took over in late December after the previous minister, Marko Bandelli, was forced to resign, among other things due to a lack of progress in EU funds phasing.
A report reviewed by the government in late February shows that, by the end of last year, 392 decisions for subsides had been issued, totalling EUR 2.3bn, or 76% of the funds available for the country until 2023.
Sixty percent of the projects, worth EUR 1.8bn, had been under way, and EUR 694m or 22.6% of the available funds had been paid out from the national budget.
By the end of 2018, the country had submitted to the European Commission EUR 496m worth of reimbursement claims, which represents 16% of the available funds.
Committee members hailed the efforts to speed up fund phasing set out by the minister, but several urged more effort to deal with red tape and other issues pinpointed by people on the ground.
"We're losing a unique development opportunity because procedures are too complicated," said Branko Grims, a deputy for the opposition Democratic Party (SDS).
Similarly, Nik Prebil from the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) urged tackling red tape as a priority and SDS deputy Franci Kepa said small municipalities had many problems combining and prioritising projects.