Health Ministry intends to speed up drawing of EU funds

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Ljubljana – The share of EU funds Slovenia has drawn for health projects is rather low, Health Minister Daniel Bešič Loredan told the press on Tuesday. He said the ministry would not be looking for the culprits, but rather focus on phasing as much money as possible within the set deadlines. He mentioned redistribution of funds as a solution.

Speaking at the a press conference presenting investments in Slovenian healthcare, Bešič Loredan said the ministry wanted all projects to be cleared of any corruption suspicion. But he denied claims that the ministry was denying funding to projects and stopping construction.

According to Anita Zakšek, who is in charge of finance at the ministry, almost half of the EUR 770 million healthcare budget will go for Covid-related measures. Just under a third of all funds will go for investment.

Investments will mainly be funded from the national budget (44%), followed by EU funds (28%).

Aleš Šabeder, a former health minister and a former UKC Ljubljana hospital director who is now in charge of the ministry’s office for oversight, quality and investment in healthcare, said that a key problem was the low share of EU funds phased.

EUR 116.5 million has been secured from the React-EU mechanism, but only 4% has been so far phased. As for cohesion funds, 20% of the EUR 71 million secured have been drawn, Šabeder noted.

Among the projects where deadlines for drawing EU funds are very close is also the energy renovation of the UKC Ljubljana hospital, which is the largest project funded from both EU and cohesion funds. In both cases less that 1% of the funds have been phased.

Most projects must be concluded by the end of next year or they will need to be co-funded from the national budget, Šabeder warned.

Another problem is a very disproportionate distribution of funding among health institutes, he noted, adding that clear criteria would be sent in the future, as the needs and desires exceeded the funding available.

Much like in other fields the main problems of projects in healthcare have been price hikes, lack of material and staff, and the epidemic.

Šabeder said a list of solutions had already been drawn up. One possibility is to redistribute funds from projects that are behind schedule to projects that can be completed before the end of this financial perspective.

Talks on this are under way with hospital managements, he said.

Preparations for the new financial perspective are also under way. A partnership agreement between Slovenia and the European Commission is to be concluded in September and will serve as a basis for a programme for the 2021-2027 European cohesion policy.

According to Mojca Presečnik, head of the service for cohesion policy, the focus will be on measures promoting healthy life style and long term care, while about half of the funds will go for investment. The Health Ministry is expected to receive some EUR 117 million for these measures, but talks are still under way.

“For now it seems we will be able to provide cohesion funds only to the eastern cohesion region as far as investments are concerned,” she said, adding that investments in boosting energy efficiency of buildings would continue.

Slovenia is divided into the western and eastern cohesion regions, with the western region, comprising Central Slovenia, Gorenjska, Goriška and Obalno-Kraška regions, being the more developed one.