DPM Grcic: Croatia is preparing for effective use of EU funding

Croatia has stepped up preparations for full membership of the European Union and once it joins the bloc it will be able to draw much more money from its structural and cohesion funds than it does now in the pre-accession phase, said the Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Branko Grcic, after meeting with EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele and EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

“In the pre-accession period Croatia has had about 150 million euros at its disposal annually, and now we are entering a period when we will have access to over a billion euros annually. This shows how much work Croatia is facing in preparations for drawing those funds and how much more we must work to increase our absorption capacity,” said Grcic.

Croatia will enter the European Union at the very end of the EU current budgetary period (2007-2013) and after six months of membership it will be able to draw 450 million euros from the cohesion and structural funds. The EU is currently negotiating a new financial framework for the 2014-2020 period.

Croatia is divided into three statistical regions – Northwestern, Pannonian and Adriatic Region. Grcic said he raised the issue of possible changes in the organisation of the present statistical regions on the NUTS 2 level in Croatia, as Northwestern Croatia could exceed the 75 per cent European average in the next budgetary period, which would give it the status of a transition region with a smaller amount of available funds.

They talked about the possibility for the EU to finance some of the mine removal projects in Croatia, for which Croatia needs another 500 million euros. The meeting also focused on the so-called Sarajevo Process, namely on organising a donor conference in Sarajevo later in April to raise funds for refugee housing in the region. The project is worth over 500 million euros and would include funding from the national budgets of four countries in the region.