In the current programming period of 2014−2020, about €10.7 billion have been earmarked for the development and support of the less developed regions of Slovakia. This amount represents 69 percent of the total amount of more than €15.5 billion earmarked for Slovakia in the current period. Through European money, Slovakia in particular seeks to increase economic growth, reduce unemployment, but mainly to wipe out regional disparities. It was particularly these topics of regional development and Euro-funds that the European Union Member States (EU) representatives discussed at the Conference entitled “Days of the Regional Development and EU Funds” held on 4-6 October in Croatian Sibenik. With the participation of the Deputy Prime Ministers of governments and Ministers of eight countries, the event was aimed at exchanging experience, as well as examples of good practice. Slovakia was represented in this forum by Richard Rasi, Deputy Prime Minister.
“Economic growth, higher employment, reducing social exclusion, regional competitiveness and better quality of life are those goals that Slovakia wants to achieve through Cohesion Policy,” said Richard Rasi, Deputy Prime Minister for Investment and Informatization.
In the previous programming period of 2007 − 2013, much was achieved through the Euro-funds in many areas. More than 150 kilometres of new motorways and expressways were built, the first-class roads, but also more than a thousand kilometres of regional roads of second and third class, were modernized. Investing in motorways has shown that the connection to the pan-European transport network has improved the economic and social situation of the districts of Slovakia. At the same time, wages have risen, the unemployment rate has fallen, the number of dwellings and businesses has grown, and better business conditions have been created. In the field of the environment, a number of connections to the drinking water or sewage systems have been built. Euro-funds have been also spent to modernize hospitals, education, or digitization.
More than €11 billion of the Cohesion Fund and the Structural Funds were spent in the previous period in all successful projects. The results were also reflected in the economic sphere, meaning that one Euro invested in Slovakia by 2015 generated another two Euros of GDP. GDP per capita has also risen from 55% of the EU average in 2003 to 77% of the EU average in 2017. More than 80,000 new jobs have been created. “It was confirmed that European funds have undoubtedly contributed to the growth of Slovakia,” said Deputy Prime Minister adding that much was done especially in the area of regional development. He mentioned, for example, 59 cultural monuments repaired or 638 public spaces renovated. Financial assistance was also directed to the social services facilities.
Slovakia implements 12 operational programmes in the current programming period, including the Rural Development Program, the Technical Assistance Program, and the two cross-border programs of Slovakia−Czech Republic, and Slovakia−Austria. As of September 21, 2018, drawing represented 15.82 percent; the volume of contracts closed was at 45 percent, and more than 90 percent of the total allocation is already in the calls announced.
“Another realistic assumption that Slovakia will in fact spend all allocated resources is the fact that the implementation of the 2014-2020 period can actually run until 2023 so, in addition to the current year, we will have five more years to complete the implementation of the operational programmes and the implementation of concrete projects effectively” said Richard Rasi.
However, Europe is already on the threshold of negotiations on the new programming period of 2021-2027. In May, the European Commission presented the budget for the period, but no longer with the UK contribution. Funding should focus more on research and innovation, young people, digital economy, border management, and security and defence, which should increase Europe’s prosperity, sustainability and security.
During the conference, Deputy Prime Minister shall meet at a bilateral meeting with his Polish counterpart, Jerzy Kwieciński, Minister of Investment and Economic Development, as well as with Goran Pauk, the Administrator of Sibenik-Knin County.