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The European Commission agreed to measures that should make a significant contribution to getting some of the EU's most troubled economies back on track.
Under the proposal, six countries would be asked to contribute less to projects that they currently co-finance with the European Union. The Commission makes available for Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Romania, Latvia and Hungary, supplementary EU co-financing, vital for growth and competitiveness-boosting projects in each one of these countries.
As a result, they will have to find less national match-funding at a time when their domestic budgets are under considerable pressure and therefore programmes that have not been executed so far for lack of national funding may be launched and inject fresh money in the economy.
The measure does not represent new or additional funding but it allows an earlier reimbursement of funds already committed under EU cohesion policy, rural development and fisheries.
The EU contribution would be increased to a maximum of 95% if requested by a Member State concerned. This should be accompanied by a prioritisation of projects focusing on growth and employment, such as retraining workers, setting up business clusters or investing in transport infrastructure.
The Commission will request that the Council and the European Parliament adopt the proposal in a fast-track legislative procedure by the end of 2011.
The top-up is an exceptional temporary measure, which ends as soon as the EU countries stop receiving support under the financial assistance programmes – under a programme from the Balance of Payments mechanism (Romania, Latvia and Hungary) or from the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (Greece, Ireland and Portugal).
To help with the absorption of the funds, the Commission is cooperating with the EU countries concerned to remove bottlenecks, strengthen their administrative capacity and accelerate implementation and spending on the ground.
In the specific case of Greece, the Commission has established a Task Force that will help it to implement the measures foreseen in the economic adjustment programme and take all necessary steps to ensure a quicker take-up of EU funds.