VILNIUS - The European Commission did not allocate the nearly 700 million euros in cohesion policy funding requested by the Lithuanian government for the Vilnius region because of the large gap between the capital region and other Lithuanian regions, says European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira who visited Lithuania last week.
"You have the Vilnius region that now the recent statistics put it very close to 130 percent of (the EU's – BNS) GDP. (...) And you have certain regions, particular in the mid-west, where you have 46 or 50 percent of the average (...) If you compare one with the other, you can see how different this is," the commissioner said in an interview with BNS.
"The government wanted to make this massive transfer to the Vilnius region. (...) We thought that the funds should be now concentrated on the problems in the areas that are lagging behind," she added.
Having approved cohesion policy funding for Lithuania, the European Commission earmarked almost 364 million euros for the Vilnius region until 2027. This is almost half of what the government requested. Meanwhile, Lithuania's central and western region will receive around 4.1 billion euros in cohesion policy funding.
Ferreira says the richest regions cannot look after themselves only as they must be responsible for the development of the whole country.
"When you have a very strong central area, you have got to create conditions for this area to be also responsible with its innovation, with its capacity for development of the country. (…) You cannot really create a situation in which the richest areas look after themselves only," she said.
Since becoming an EU member in 2004, Lithuania has made significant progress in all areas, the European commissioner underlined. However, she added, Lithuania needs to focus on areas such as green transformation, the reduction of social and regional exclusion, employment, and also take steps to improve education and vocational training.