Brussels, 9 November 2012
EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn meets Prime Minister Fico and outlines future priorities for EU funds in Slovakia
Commissioner Johannes Hahn is in Bratislava today to meet Prime Minister Robert Fico and to participate in concrete discussions with the Council of Government on regional policy for the next EU spending round. The Commissioner and Prime Minister will discuss how EU funds can best be deployed to deliver more growth and jobs in Slovakia. The visit comes at a critical phase in talks between Member States and the European Parliament on the EU's next 7-year budget and the Commission's proposals for future regional policy.
Speaking ahead of his visit Commissioner Hahn said: "Cohesion policy is the EU's key investment policy in times of crisis. I urge the Slovak authorities to make full use of the funds available to support the competitiveness of small and medium‑sized companies, to boost research and innovation, and to invest in key transport networks and the sustainable use of natural resources."
Commissioner Hahn added: "Slovakia needs to ensure that is has a business-friendly environment. It must be open and transparent, with both independent and robust control and management systems. These will be essential in boosting investor confidence."
Commissioner Hahn will outline how the European Commission believes Slovakia can best prioritise EU investment in the next 2014-2020 budget, in close alignment with the "Europe 2020 Strategy" – the EU's long-term growth agenda. The Commissioner will meet with the Council of Government preparing the Partnership Agreement for EU Regional Policy in Slovakia for 2014-2020. He will also urge the Slovak authorities to work hard on implementing current programmes to respond to the crisis and ensure the full and efficient take-up of EU investments.
Slovakia has a total allocation in the 2007-2013 period of €11.5 billion implemented via nine European Regional Development Fund/Cohesion Fund programmes and two European Social Fund programmes. In addition, it receives €220 million under cross-border programmes and €2 billion under the Rural Development Programme.
But Slovakia is behind the EU average in its ability to "absorb" EU funds: at 38% as opposed to the average 44%.
On January 30, 2012, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, issued an urgent call for action at the informal European Council. He called on eight Member States including Slovakia to tackle youth unemployment and to support SMEs. In response to the Commission President's initiative, over €295 million were transferred from underperforming programmes in Slovakia to finance these objectives. EU Member States and the European Parliament are currently negotiating the next spending round for the EU budget. The Cyprus EU presidency has indicated it wants an agreement by the November Special Summit. In the meantime the Commissioner and his team are outlining priorities on structural funds for each of the 27 EU Member States. This will form the basis for Member States to begin drawing up their Partnership Agreements for the next round of regional policy funding.
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