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Zeman: Sobotka’s gov’t responsible for not drawing billions from EU

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Prague, Jan 4 (CTK) – The Czech government of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) is responsible for that the country will not draw some 35 billion crowns from the European funds, Czech President Milos Zeman said in an interview with Czech Radio Plus.
In reaction to him, Sobotka said his government has markedly improved the drawing of European money and that a possible failure to draw a part of it is mainly to blame on the previous cabinets.
“Generally speaking, if someone in this country stole 35 billion crowns, they would be brought before court, I hope. And if someone allows 35 billion crowns to be forfeited through their own laxity, through their own inability, it is bad, but nothing happens,” Zeman said.
Previously, it was talked about that the Czech Republic will not draw as many as 100 billion crowns, and that is why those concerned now rejoice if it is eventually only 35 billion crowns, Zeman said.
But it is still a huge sum. “Just imagine what could be built for it,” Zeman said.
Sobotka said his government, also including ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), was appointed and “took over the responsibility in early 2014 only, which is why it could not influence the sum the country had drawn in the preceding seven years.”
“The main responsibility for the possible failure to draw a part of the sum rests with the governments that were in power during the programme period from 2007 to 2013. They were the governments of Mirek Topolanek, Jan Fischer, Petr Necas and Jiri Rusnok,” Sobotka said.
Topolanek and Necas headed right-wing cabinets in 2006-2009 and 2010-2013, respectively. Collapsing prematurely, they were replaced by interim cabinets of Fischer (2009-2010) and Rusnok (2013-2014).
Sobotka said it is not yet possible to ascertain accurately the sum Prague failed to draw from EU funds for 2007-2013.
“One year ago, the unused sum was still estimated at over 85 billion crowns. At present, the estimate is about 50 billion lower and the final number may be even lower,” Sobotka said.
The Regional Development Ministry, which coordinates the use of the money, has told CTK that the unused sum is estimated at 36 billion crowns now.
The Czech Republic could draw almost 800 billion crowns from the European funds in the 2007-13 period.
The deadline for submitting invoices within the 2007-13 period was December 31, 2015.
Zeman offered a solution for the future. “I believe that if it had not been managed now, a solution for the future programming period could rest in the creation of a reservoir of useful projects where you could go if you failed with some other project in the operational programme,” he said.
($1=24.824 crowns)

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