Špidla: Czechs could lose access to ‘billions’ in EU funds

Social Democrats (ČSSD) demand emergency session of Parliament be convened over failings in Czech control and audit mechanisms

Politics & Policy|Foreign Affairs
Brian Kenety | 06.01.2012
Former EU Commissioner and ČSSD PM Vladimír Špidla at a press briefing on Friday painted a grim picture of the country’s track record — and future ability — to draw EU funds

The Czech Republic is in imminent danger of losing tens — if not billions — of euros in European Union funding due to the country’s failure to institute proper mechanisms for drawing funds and put in place auditing controls, Vladimír Špidla, a former EU commissioner and Czech prime minister, warned on Friday.

The Social Democrat (ČSSD), the main opposition party in the lower house of Parliament (Chamber of Deputies) has already called for an emergency meeting of MPs to be convened over the issue. Earlier this month, the European Commission warned the Ministry of Education to stop operating its certification project for an “Education for Competitiveness” program intended for primary and secondary school, which the Czechs could draw some €2.1 billion from (about Kč 50 billion).

The TOP 09 party called for Education Minister Josef Dobeš (Public Affairs, VV) to resign due to incompetence and questionable expenditures uncovered by an EC audit (which an unusually high percentage of officials drawing salaries exceeding Kč 100,000 per month, disadvantageous contracts with some suppliers and unexplained payments on EU-funded projects).

That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, warns Špidla, the former EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, with funds for other operational programs at risk.

“There is a threat drawing funds from the European Union will cease due to flaws in the system of auditing,” said Špidla, a ČSSD party member who served prime minister from 2002 to 2004, and was in the EU Commission until 2010. “The head of the operational program acts at the same time acts as head auditor, so control is no independent.”

In theory, while the Czech Republic was eligible to receive up to Kč 789 billion in the 2007–2013 funding period; however, Brussels has only certified (i.e. approved) only Kč 13.6 billion in funding for projects. At the same time, the Czech government has paid out Kč 290.5 billion for earmarked programs, mainly from the national budget — and according to Špidla, there is no certainly the EU will pay the difference, the news server iDNES.cz reported.

See related story: Czech Education Minister under fire after eight-day tenure of EU funds official 

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