Battle for EU treasure chest hits deadlock

  • 2006-02-15
  • Staff and wire reports
VILNIUS - The ongoing debate within the government over who should control EU funds has spilled over to the Presidential Palace and the Special Investigative Service, both of which have voiced preference for letting the Finance Ministry handle the billions of euros that will flood the country in the next few years.

The Labor Party, which controls the Economy Ministry and is the country's most popular party, as well as the largest in Parliament, wants all EU assistance money to be spread out among three ministries. The Social Democrats, which control the Finance Ministry, are resisting the efforts.

The government intends to decide by March 1 which ministries will control the EU financial assistance for the 2007-2013 budget period. A final plan on the assistance should be prepared by May.

President Valdas Adamkus spoke in favor of keeping the funds concentrated in the Finance Ministry. "The Finance Ministry has to coordinate that issue [allotment of EU funds]. The purpose of the country's Finance Ministry is to form a wide view and coordinate," he told a press conference.

A representative from the International Monetary Fund who was in Vilnius this week also spoke out in favor of letting the Finance Ministry handle the funds.

Meanwhile, the head of the Special Investigation Service said EU money should be controlled by the Finance Ministry.

"I am not saying that the system functioning at present is the most rational and efficient, but the system, such as it is now, where the Finance Ministry coordinates and controls it, is a prerequisite," Povilas Malakauskas, head of the service, told reporters after a meeting of the State Defense Council on Feb. 13.

In his words, the main principle in the allotment of EU funds was that money had to be separated from decisions, and therefore the current system should not be changed, only improved.

Parliamentary Chairman Arturas Paulauskas has urged all state institutions to pool efforts for the use of European Union financial assistance. Speaking at a Seimas conference on local and regional needs for EU's structural funds in the 2007-2013 period, the speaker suggested that municipalities make efforts so that EU money is invested into their territories.

From the opposition's side, Andrius Kubilius, head of the Homeland Union [Conservatives], said that since the government was incapable of breaching the deadlock, Parliament should step in.

"I can see one way out of the situation and one way to end the hidden battle (for allocation of EU assistance) - moving all discussions to the Seimas, as we have proposed earlier," Kubilius told a news conference this week.

Over the period from 2007 to 2013, Lithuania is scheduled to receive over 20 billion litas (over 5.8 billion euros) in EU structural fund assistance, and together with the rural development program, the EU's financial assistance will amount to a total of 36 billion litas. Each year, the country will receive 56 percent more than the average of funds allocated for it in the 2004-2006 period.