Skopje, 17th November 2014 (MIA) – In the period 2014-2020, Macedonia was provided the opportunity to use the EUR 664.2 million from the EU Pre-Accession Funds under the IPA2 Program, or around EUR 320 per capita.  This is significantly more than the 2007-2014 IPA Program, which offered possibility for using EUR 614.5 million as direct support from the European taxpayers to adjust the country to the European standards.

This was pointed out at the public debate “challenges and opportunities for using the IPA funds allocated under “IPA2 (2014-2020)”, organized by the Commission for European Issues of the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia. The two-day debate was also attended by representatives of the national parliaments from the countries in the region.   

As it was indicated, under IPA2 Program, reforms for the EU accession will be supported with EUR 205.9 million, EUR 298.8 million was envisaged for regional and socioeconomic development, Denar 53.2 million was envisaged for employment, social policies, education, promotion of gender equality and human resources development, while EUR 106.3 million was envisaged for agriculture and rural development.

Seven priority projects for the Republic of Macedonia were also mutually identified with the EU.  As for the first priority democracy and governance, EUR 122.9 million will be allocated in the next seven years, EUR 83 million for rule of law and human rights, EUR 112.9 million for environment and climate action, EUR 112.9 million for transport, EUR 73 million for competitiveness and innovations, EUR 53 million for education, employment and social policies, and EUR 106.3 for agriculture and rural development.

President of the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia Trajko Veljanoski said that it perceives today’s debate as a continuation of all that was contained in the Progress Report of the European Commission, including both the positive aspects and the remarks.

– Obtaining more funds under the IPA2 Program increases our responsibility in achieving the strategic goal – full-fledged membership in the EU.  Having representatives of national parliaments from the region present at this public debate speaks of our commitment, which is more than just a mere determination, to EU integration, Veljanoski said.

He pointed out that he hopes that the Government and the institutions will adopt the new approaches on time in terms of the use of the funds envisaged under the IPA2 Program.

– Our responsibility is to use the funds as much as we cab and I expect, in the coming period, for the percentage of utilization of these funds in agriculture, education, and other areas, to increase, Veljanoski said, stressing the need for regional cooperation in particular for large infrastructure projects.

He stressed that the Parliament has already shown it is able and can help in realizing the IPA Program, and he promised that they will continue to create conditions for more efficient use of IPA funds in future as well.

Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Fatmir Besimi stressed that, in the past period, the Government and the government institutions actively worked on creating the National Strategic Document IPA2, and in order to achieve greater inclusiveness and transparency in the process of creating the National Strategic Document, civil society was included.

– Under this Instrument, Republic of Macedonia will have total of EUR 664.2 million at its disposal, aimed at realizing specific and strategic priorities in several areas among which democracy and governance, rule of law and human rights, environment and climate action, transport, competitiveness and innovations, education, employment and social policies, horizontal mechanisms for inter-institutional cooperation, agriculture and rural development.  2014-2020 Pre-Accession Assistance Instrument, known as IPA 2, is a solid proof of the partnership and the strong support the Republic of Macedonia receives from the European Union, Besimi said.

He said that the Secretariat for European Affairs, for the purpose of achieving greater transparency and inclusiveness in the next period, will pay special attention to coordinated communication with the institutions, local government units, civil society, business community and broader public to the end of greater use of European funds.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Zoran Stavreski said that the process of Macedonia’s accession to the European Union is the driving force of the reforms and, that somehow, it will complete the process of transformation of the country in all segments of  the society.

– Financial support through IPA funds is significant for the Republic of Macedonia in financial terms, since significant funds are received, in this case new EUR 664.2 million, being direct financial support and saving of funds that would otherwise need to be allocated from the state budget. In addition, by granting this financial aid, numerous reforms are supported, providing for increasing the quality and standard in the political, economic and social spheres of life, Stavreski said.

That, as he pointed out, is a reason why the country should make everything possible to use these funds more efficiently.

– Under the new strategic framework for IPA 2, the challenges are mainly defined in three groups.

 The first one is competitiveness and growth, the second group is economic governance or management, while the third one is democracy and rule of law.  Competitiveness and growth are mostsignificant for increasing the competitiveness of Macedonian economy and achieving higher growth rates.  This requires creation of good conditions and investment in infrastructure, not only the physical but also the human one.   This is where I see the opportunity to improve, through UPA funds, road, energy, environmental and other infrastructure, as well as to improve the human potential by realizing projects in the field of improving the knowledge and quality of labour force, Stavreski said.

He pointed out that the Ministry of Finance will provide support for additional development of the infrastructure so to use the funds more efficiently.

– In the past period, Republic of Macedonia invested significant funds and efforts to create decentralized implementation system for managing IPA funds.  Around 350 state administration employees are engaged in this structure and I believe we have the human potential that can help in using the IPA funds, in future, in and efficient and transparent manner, Stavreski said, stressing that the administrative capacities will be further improved.

EU Ambassador Aivo Orav said that the European Union values remain to be the basis for IPA2 and the national document for implementation of the EU-related policies and reforms.

– Funds will be used to address the challenges, harmonize our legislation with the EU acquis, as well as other priorities. EU assistance will be adjusted so as to help the country meet the standards. Under IPA2, we decided to support the political and economic reforms, as well as the sustainability in the next seven years. Funding will allows us to continue the work started under IPA1, Orav said.

He pointed out that there is still need to improve the capacities for using the financial resources. Therefore, IPA2 will be focused on limited number of sectors that will help the country to enhance its democratic and economic functioning and social development, Orav said.  

By mutual cooperation, he stressed, I am confident that the country will be an example in the region for using the funds.

National Authorising Officer Suzana Peneva pointed out that under the Program IPA1 (2007-2014), around 39% of the available funds have been used so far, and that by the end of the year, it is expected for the utilization to reach 45%.

He pointed out that greatest challenge for IPA2 Program will remain to be the utilization of funds.

– Taking into account that the decentralized implementation system for managing IPA funds has been already accredited, and that starting 1st January, there will be new approach in implementing IPA assistance by significantly reducing the ex controls by the European Commission, we hope that it will result in an increased utilization of the funds, Peneva said.

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