Sunday, 20 April 2014

MfD: Political parties bear responsibility for EU subsidy scandal

28 March 2013

Prague, March 27 (CTK) - Czech political parties bear responsibility for badly administered and botched EU subsidies within the North-West programme that made the European Commission impose a fine of 2.6 billion crowns on Czechs, Jan Vesely writes in daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) Wednesday.

The self-rule bodies of the regions of Usti nad Labem, north Bohemia, and Karlovy Vary, west Bohemia, are locked in a dispute over who should pay for the mistakes in drawing money from the North-West programme.

The North-West programme has been halted, former Regional Operational Programme (ROP) office head Petr Kusnierz was sentenced to prison and former Usti region's deputy governor Pavel Kouda (Social Democrats, CSSD) and two other ROP heads are waiting for their trial, Vesely notes.

Who should pay for the bad work of politicians and clerks? Vesely asks.

Prime Minister Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS) and Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) put the blame for the mistakes and corruption on regional politicians, which means that the regions themselves should cover the costs, Vesely says.

Necas and Kalousek nevertheless admitted that they might be able to lend the money needed to pay the fine to the Usti and Karlovy Vary regions and that the regions would be repaying the loan to the state, but the Usti regional heads rejected it on Monday and Karlovy Vary is still considering it, he recalls.

If the regional representatives accepted their responsibility, the payment of the fine would certainly burden the inhabitants, especially those from Usti as two-thirds of the fine concern this region, Vesely writes.

As a result of paying several hundred million crowns a year, the region would restrict the services it must provide, he says.

Why should the locals see social care institutions being closed down, treatment in the hospitals operated by the region limited and damaged roads left unrepaired? Vesely asks.

He says the regional representatives may argue that the region is only the recipient of the subsidies and it is not part of the ROP's control structure.

However, the regions selected key politicians for members of the controlling committee of the ROP office. These councillors and former regional governors are mostly from the CSSD, but also from the ODS and the National Socialists (NS-LEV 21) who splintered off the CSSD, Vesely writes.

Should these people participate in the covering of the damage, too, giving up their houses, cars and cottages? he asks.

Possibly, the fine should be paid by the political parties that produced these politicians. In such a scenario, the two biggest Czech parties, the ODS and the CSSD, would go bankrupt and consequently the composition of the Chamber of Deputies would completely change after the next year's general election, Vesely writes.

Or should the whole burden be covered by the state that is responsible for the work of the ROP offices and that should check them via the Finance Ministry? Vesely asks.

These considerations may seem absurd, but Czech law does not clearly say who must deal with the errors and the fine, he points out.

It is apparent that mistakes were made. Brussels criticised the ROP office and its control committee but also the Finance Ministry, Vesely says.

Usti regional governor Oldrich Bubenicek (Communists, KSCM), Necas and Kalousek will negotiate about the payment of the fine. If they do not reach agreement, courts will have to decide the matter and many municipalities and firms will face problems. If they do not receive the suspended subsidies, they may go bankrupt, Vesely writes.

He says this unfortunate scenario is still far away.

Brussels definitely does not want Czechs to send the fine to a given account, but it is going to leave the money in the North-West programme for further subsidies, Vesely writes.

He says the scandal, caused by people who were responsible for the subsidies, is a disgrace for Usti nad Labem and Karlovy Vary.

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