Over the past seven years Croatia has managed to absorb €10.7 billion which the EU put at its disposal, but only 39% of that has been paid to end users, putting Croatia at the bottom of the EU28.
The European Commission today published the latest cohesion data for all member states, including the UK.
Croatia is at the bottom together with Spain, where 39% of the contracted amount has been paid to end users too. Forty percent has been paid in Italy, 41% in Slovakia and 53% in Slovenia.
The Commission said project contracting in Croatia was excellent but there were difficulties with payments.
The money is coming from the EU budget, via the Croatian administration, to end users across Croatia. The obstacle is that public procurement takes a long time and the administration imposes complicated procedures on end users, the Commission said.
The projects in Croatia contracted between 2014 and this year can be completed by the end of 2023, by which time the remaining 61% of the €10.7 billion should be paid.
"In Croatia there are always big problems with public procurement. All sorts of firms with competitive intentions enter public procurement, then appeals are filed, then public procurement processes take a year, or a year and a half, which is why it all goes slowly," said Bruno Hranic (HDZ), the head of Vidovec municipality in Varazdin County.
"But I believe it will get better and that we will absorb all the money from the previous budget period," he added. Eleven projects have been carried out in his municipality thanks to European money.
The best situation is in Finland, where end users have received 77% of the agreed money from the EU budget, followed by Ireland (70%) and Luxembourg (69%).
When it comes to administrative processes, there is technical assistance in the European Commission, people who sit down with Croatia and work on simplifying procedures, the Commission said.
European Commissioner for Cohesion Elisa Ferreira is expected to meet with Croatian Regional Development Minister Natasa Tramisak in Brussels this week to consider the situation regarding the 2014-20 period.