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The European Commission has today approved Croatia’s investment plan to use EU cohesion policy funds worth €449.4m allocated to the country when it joined the EU on 1st July 2013. The National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) prepared by the Croatian authorities sets out the investment priorities for Croatia’s regions in order to accelerate economic growth and create employment, boosting the country’s overall competitiveness. Strategic projects with clear, pre-defined goals matching these priorities must quickly be identified so as to make the best use of this valuable investment by the 2016 deadline.
The European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, along with European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor welcomed the timely submission and approval of the investment plan.
Commissioner Hahn commented: “This is a crucial first step for Croatia on the path to competitiveness. Cohesion policy funds must be invested where most needed to strengthen the local economy, increase labour market participation and to capitalise on the nation’s assets, such as the preservation and promotion of natural resources to boost the tourism industry and business support to help SMEs thrive”.
Commissioner Andor added: “The European Social Fund has a vital role to play to make Europe more competitive and prosperous because it helps to enhance our greatest asset: our people and in particular young people. I hope that Croatia will be able to take full advantage of the new opportunities the Social Fund offers to tackle the employment, educational and social inclusion challenges faced across the country".
The NSRF outlines three strategic goals: strengthening economic competitiveness; establishing optimal economic conditions for job creation and employability; and achieving balanced regional development. Its adoption paves the way for implementation of strategic operational programmes in: "environment", "transport", "regional competitiveness" and "human resources", with a further breakdown of investment priority axes and project selection criteria.
Cohesion Fund (€149.8m) investments will go towards waste and wastewater management, as well as improvement of the water supply. The European Regional Development Fund (€228.4m) will be invested in business support for SMEs, research and innovation, along with more basic infrastructures, such as railway and waterways. The European Social Fund (€60m) will support job creation and invest in social inclusion and education projects.
Croatia joins the current financial period of cohesion policy only six months before its end, which means, in keeping with EU rules - all projects selected for investment should be completed by the end of 2016.
It is expected that the experience Croatia has gained under previous programmes and projects under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) will facilitate the efficient and timely management of investments from this first tranche of cohesion policy funding. European Union
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