European funds are the key to development, better living standards and economic growth, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Sunday, adding that over the past 15 years the EU had invested EUR 365 billion in the development of central and east European countries and that 80% of public investment in Croatia came from EU funds.
Until 2020, Croatia has EUR 10.7 billion in EU funds at its disposal and it expects as much in the next seven-year budget, Plenkovic said at the EU Funds Open Doors Day.
"The Croatian state couldn't find that in the form of grants in any other way," he said, citing as an example the renovation of the roundabout in Zagreb's Remetinec neighbourhood, which costs HRK 330 million, of which HRK 273 million comes from EU funds and HRK 50 million from the government.
"This modernisation proves how important EU membership is and how much it improves the quality of living," Plenkovic said.
He announced that an agreement will be signed on Monday for the establishment of the Shared Services Centre which will coordinate and manage the utilisation of all IT applications and e-services which government institutions provide to citizens. The project is worth HRK 360 million, of which HRK 307 million comes from EU funds.
The prime minister said the EU had invested EUR 365 billion in the development of central and east European countries that became member states in 2004 and 2007. "And when we know that 80% of public investment in Croatia comes thanks to the European Union, then we see that it's the key to our development, better standards and economic growth."
The EU Funds Open Doors Day was organised by the Regional Development and EU Funds Ministry under the slogan "EU funds are changing Croatia".
Minister Gabrijela Zalac said that at the end of October 2018 that contracted European projects were worth HRK 7.3 billion and that now the amount was HRK 54 billion. "That's 68% of the contracted allocation of EUR 10.7 billion."
The government's goal is for the contracting rate to reach 85% by the end of the year, she said, adding that applications had been called for over 88% of the allocation.
EU projects worth HRK 1.8 billion have been contracted in Zagreb, she said. "We will keep up the same tempo next year so we can contract 100% of the allocation."
The head of the European Commission Representation in Croatia, Branko Baricevic, said the cohesion policy was one of the most successful EU policies, voicing confidence that Croatia would know how to use it. EU funds "are aimed at increasing overall prosperity and prepare the countries using them to transform their economies into self-sufficient economies," he added.