The European Commission has lifted a two-year- freeze banning the Czech Republic from accessing funds from the EU’s Operational Program for Enterprise and Innovation. The move was made in connection with a number of dubious public tenders and it left the Czech Republic financing all ensuing projects from state coffers.
Following a number of serious warnings regarding dubious EU-funded projects and inadequate control mechanisms on the part of the Czech authorities, Brussels put its foot down in January of 2013 and froze Czech access to the EU’s Operational Program for Enterprise and Innovation. Back then the country was ranked among the worst of the EU member states in drawing of EU funds and controlling and supervising EU-funded projects. Prime Minister Sobotka’s centre-left government which took office on January of 2014 made it a priority to improve the country’s record on this count and Brussels has now confirmed significant progress. Based on the results of 52 audits of randomly chosen projects in the course of 2014 and government control mechanisms, the EC announced that the freeze on funds from the EU’s Operational Program for Enterprise and Innovation is over.
This is primarily good news for the government since all projects that were put forward and approved in the meantime were funded from state coffers. The respective documentation on the projects was sent to Brussels and the money for their financing can now be reimbursed. The 38 billion crowns which the country will now be able to draw will be a significant contribution to state coffers. The only exception concerns two projects which Brussels found fault with and which caused it to withhold 3.4 billion crowns from the overall sum. In one case Brussels protested against the fact that the Chamber of Commerce supervised the Chamber of Commerce and there were also reservations with respect to a project put forward by the Czech-Moravian Guarantee and Development Bank.
The Czech Finance Ministry on Monday welcomed the renewed flow of EU funds and the government has stressed it will learn from its predecessor’s mistakes and do everything possible to avoid similar problems in the future. In the 2014 to 2020 period the Program for Enterprise and Innovation would enable the Czech Republic to access the equivalent of 116 billion crowns.
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