Too much is being saved in Greece and too little is being invested in building a competitive economy. That is a common accusation. But the EU already changed direction in part last year. Funding should be used more quickly and flow into promising projects.
By Wolfgang Landmesser, WDR radio studio in Brussels
New Deal, Marshall Plan or Hercules Plan: In great terms, politics is quick to get involved when it comes to economic development in the almost bankrupt state of Greece.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, head of the Greens in the European Parliament, demanded again: “Now you have to find a plan for Greece, where on the one hand debt relief and on the other hand a reform are discussed and a Marshall plan, an investment plan. Otherwise no economy can be stimulated again. ”
Concrete work instead of empty words
In principle, there is nothing wrong with such promising labels, says Janis Emmanoulidis. But in the end it depends on the content, says the researcher at the European Policy Center in Brussels: “There really has to be substance behind it. That is the central point,” says the scientist. “If there are only empty words behind it like a formulation in the final declarations of the EU summit, that of course doesn’t help. Concrete work has to be done.”
And that’s already happening, but more behind the scenes. The so-called Task Force Greece has been in action since summer. The team of experts around Horst Reichenbach from Germany is supposed to support the Greeks in using the billions in aid that are already available.
Reichenbach, an experienced crisis manager, has an eye on the European Structural Funds: “On the financial side, the Structural Funds are in place. And absorbing the Structural Funds well up to 2013 is in itself a major task, so that further Marshall Fund funding is hardly meaningful Projects could be turned over. ”
The EU structural funds
The term EU Structural Funds conceals several financial instruments with which the European Union wants to harmonize living conditions in the member states. Between 20, Brussels will provide 347 billion euros for this. Since the EU countries add the same amount again, almost 700 billion euros come together.
With 200 billion euros, most of the funds flow into the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) – also known as the regional fund. It aims to help poorer regions catch up with the economic levels of the more prosperous regions of the EU. This is why the ERDF co-finances the development of modern economic structures and the creation of permanent jobs. However, wealthy countries like Germany also received funds from the fund. Between 20, 17 billion euros flowed into the Federal Republic.
With the European Social Fund (ESF), the EU wants to promote the creation of jobs in the confederation. Between 20, the Union made around 76 billion euros available for this goal – around ten percent of the entire EU budget.
Finally, with the Cohesion Fund, the EU wants to promote the integration of the trans-European transport networks and the environment. For this he will be awarded approx. 70 billion euros equipped.
For Greece, 20.4 billion euros are earmarked for the entire period – significantly less than Germany is supposed to receive (26.3 billion euros). In 20, EUR 2.8 billion are available for Greece.
Greeks have only called a third of the funds
The Greeks only called on around a third of the funds due to them in the funding period that runs until the end of next year. For a large part, decent projects still need to be found. And this is exactly where the task force should help. The country certainly has potential, as economist Emmanoulidis enumerates: “The tourism industry has certainly not yet exhausted all of that. In addition, infrastructure projects are an opportunity to promote economic development in other regions of the country and not just in the core regions such as Athens” says Emmanoulidis. “The energy sector is one where the consideration is there to promote renewable energies in Greece. Especially when it comes to solar energy.”
“Money can often not be used wisely”
In addition, the EU has reduced the proportion of project costs that Greece has to contribute from its own budget. Brussels wants to prevent sensible investments from failing because of the tough austerity course. And Greece needs very practical help, says CDU MEP Markus Pieper: “It is actually the case that there is a lot of European money in the pipeline, which we would like to spend, but which cannot be used sensibly on site.”
The CDU politician went on to say: “That is why we have to approach the regional administration more, we have to bring in more expert knowledge so that we can then really use this money there.”
Financial aid could enable start-ups
But even if it is possible to increase the pace: especially when it comes to investments in infrastructure, it takes many years before they pay off in full. Small and medium-sized companies in Greece in particular now need acute help. The Greek banks practically no longer grant any new loans. With the help of EU funds, solid companies could essentially be saved and new ones founded.
Scientist Emmanoulidis sees potential in Greece: “There are many young Greeks who want to start their own business because they have no prospects in the country. There is also the creative potential for this in the IT sector, for example.”
The Marshall Plan for Greece therefore mainly consists of a lot of painstaking detailed work.