READ BETWEEN THE LINES: Juozapavicius, director of Transparency International's Lithuanian office, hopes the organization's current campaign will facilitate open dialogue.
VILNIUS - The ongoing EU funds saga entered a new phase this week after an NGO-sponsored ad campaign kicked off with the aim to enlighten Lithuanians about public and private responsibilities and the use of EU money. The campaign, titled "They Do Not Want You to Know," is also designed to push governmental institutions into open dialogue about using billions of EU funds earmarked for Lithuania over the next seven-year budgeting period.
Transparency International's local office, one of the campaign organizers, covered public transport stops in Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipeda with bright colored words alluding to secrecy and the administration of non-transparent EU funds in Lithuania.
"The campaign has two goals 's to invite the administration into open dialogue about transparency of EU funds and encourage society to take an active interest in the use of EU money," Rytis Juozapavicius, director of Transparency International's Lithuanian office, said in a press release.
The issue of EU funds has been at the center of political discourse in recent weeks, as coalition parties have vied over which ministries have the right to control and allocate the money.
At the beginning of March, ruling parties agreed to set up an eight-minister body that would monitor the distribution of funds, while allocating more responsibility to those ministries administering the money. The Finance Ministry, which is now controlled by the Social Democrats, is to serve as the lead institution.
According to the statement by Transparency International, more than 70 public organizations have demanded more transparency in the usage of EU funds. In November last year, NGOs presented the government with a petition in this effort, however, the government has not discussed the document until now.
"The government does not pay enough attention to providing society with information about strategic goals. Instead, officials argue over who will distribute European Union funds. We propose shifting the discussion to the nation's representation 's the Seimas [Lithuania's parliament] and approve a national strategy, action programs and financial proportions during an exhaustive discussion," said Darius Kuolys, director of the Civil Society Institute.
In 2007-2013, Lithuania could receive some 20 billion litas (5.8 billion euros) from EU structural funds and assistance. Together with rural support programs and subsidies, the aggregate amount of money will amount to 36 billion litas. Annual allotments in the future will be 56 percent higher than during the 2004-2006 period.
Speaking about the use of EU financial assistance at a special conference this week, President Valdas Adamkus stressed fairness as his main concern. He said it was the quality and purpose of the allotment that counts, not necessarily the amount of funds distributed to one field or another.
The conference, titled "How and for what Purposes will EU Assistance be used in 2007-2013?" began at the President's Office on April 4. The event was scheduled to address the objectives, tasks and principles of distributing EU funds in Lithuania.
Speaking to conference participants, Adamkus noted that the public often had questions about distribution objectives and specific results, and were also curious about how these funds would solve Lithuania's various problems.
"We will answer these questions only after we understand what we are seeking. We maintain the position that structural funds cannot be wasted on tackling the minor problems of today," Adamkus said.
"Finally, will we be known abroad for our qualified staff, efficient state institutions and excellent infrastructure rather than our cheap labor force? Will our people have confidence in Lithuania's future and feel needed in creating it? One would not like to think otherwise. All of us gathered here must assume responsibility for the future of Lithuania," Adamkus said.