Current Affairs Czech government faces Brussels targets to keep cash flowing
The Czech Republic has not been the best pupil in the past as regards the pumping of European Union funds. But for future payments the country will have to demonstrate that many gaps in local legislation or capacities to handle the huge cash flows have been dealt with. If not, the EU funds could dry up altogether.
The European Commission in Brussels looks like it has become fed up with writing cheques for big projects only for the cash to be wasted or waylaid because countries don't have the right laws in place or the correct capacities to push ahead with the work.
Now it is giving advance warning, a sort of yellow card, to all 28 countries that they have to get the basics right or they might not get any cash at all from the start of the next funding period in 2016.
The Czech Republic has been tasked with meeting around 270 conditions by Brussels or face the loss of Kč 564 billion. That amount is around half the Czech central government's total annual revenues or spending. Some of the conditions are quite general, such as getting the appropriate national employment or transport strategies in place. Others are pretty specific, such as the fact that the Czech Republic does not have, for example, a national regulator governing water and waste water charges. The national energy regulator at one stage looked as though it would take on the task but seemed to have enough already on its plate.
One of the biggest problems highlighted is the fact that after almost a decade of promises the Czech Republic still does not have a set of rules in place setting out the framework for a professional and independent civil service. Another bone of contention in Brussels is its view that Czech rules for the environmental impact assessments that are required for big infrastructure projects are much too lax and should be significantly tightened up.
For both the specific issues and general policy demands, the Commission wants to see clear signs that Prague has met its obligations or drawn up action plans that guarantee this will happen.
Deputy minister at the Ministry for Regional Development, Daniel Braun, has the main task of making sure that the EU funds keep flowing. He says that the Czech Republic is on track to meets its goals:
'I cannot give you 100% security on that, but that is the aim of the government. What we are doing is closely monitoring steps which have not been sufficient up till now and we are working closely with the institutions that are immediately responsible for their fulfillment. It is really an issue of very high importance for the Czech Republic.'
Daniel Braun says that the Czech Republic is not being picked out here. The conditions have to be met by all countries and Braun says that some of the specific Czech demands are still being worked out by Commission officials. One thing though that is certain is that the country's past failures have done in no favours in trying to meet the new targets.
The EU's original funding period due to end in 2013 has been extended with the follow on period starting in 2016.