Croatia will send by the end of June its list of priority areas for funding from the 2021-2027 funds to Brussels, Regional Development Minister Natasa Tramisak told Hina.
Next week, Commissioner for Cohesion Elisa Ferreira will meet with Minister Tramisak, and the European Commission (EC) will request that Croatia urgently send its list of priority areas for funding from the 2021-2027 funds.
The EC thinks that none of the 27 member states will adopt and send its plan by the end of March, and Croatia says it will send it by the end of June.
"Everything depends on the process of adopting the regulatory framework at the EU level. The negotiation process on the legislative framework, which regulates the use of 2021-2027 funds, has not yet been finished at the EU level," Tramisak said.
The European Commission wants to know what kind of projects Croatia wants to finance with the money from the joint budget in the next seven-year period. Until Croatia sends the document to Brussels, it will not be able to access €9.3 billion allocated to it.
With the cohesion policy, the EU aims to reduce disparities between rich and poor parts of the 27-country bloc.
In the 2014-2020 period, Croatia has contracted projects, the biggest of which is the construction of Peljesac bridge, absorbing the entire amount of €10.7 billion allocated for it in the EU budget. The projects can be realised by 2023, and to date about 36% has been paid out to users in Croatia.
In March 2019, the EC published a report saying that Croatia and other countries should as of 2021 use the funds to finance projects for digitalisation, green economy, connectivity, social affairs and getting closer to citizens. In September 2019, it held a meeting in Brussels with the then Regional Development Minister Marko Pavic, but a partnership agreement was not signed.
The partnership agreement would define Croatia's investment priorities.
Croatia still has time to presents its plan of priorities, said EC spokesperson for cohesion policy Vivian Loonela.
We are aware of the fact that Croatia faced difficult circumstances in 2020: the coronavirus pandemic, the presidency of the Council of the EU, mostly during a lockdown, the earthquake in Zagreb and parliamentary elections in July, she added.
Minister Tramisak did not say what Croatia's funding priorities would be, but she said that they would follow European priorities.
Croatia joined the EU in July 2013, and as the newest member was able to use funds during the entire seven-year period, from January 1, 2014 to the end of 2020. The partnership agreement for that period was concluded only on December 16, 2014.
In this phase (until January 1), there is no reason to speak of delay, Loonela said. In case there is a delay, and that European legislation and national programmes are not adopted by January 1, 2021, member states will be able to finance approved projects themselves, and will receive money from the EU budget later, she said.