European Structural and Investment Funds in Greece

Excerpt from the COM(2015) 639 final, ANNEX II: Country fiches:

1. ESIFs in Greece

Economic and social challenges in the ESIF context

Following the economic crisis, the Greek economy was in recession for six years and its GDP had fallen by around 25 % by 2013. Unemployment reached 25.2 % in the second quarter of 2015 and youth unemployment is among the highest in the EU (over 50 %). The number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion increased from 27.6 % of the total population in 2009 to 36 % in 2014. The modest GDP increase in Greece in 2014 (0.8 %) was below the EU average; it is a marker of major competitiveness problems and the lack of structural changes. Companies are not competitive due to low productivity and a failure to specialise in high- added-value activities and innovation. Institutional constraints, disincentives to business development and a low degree of entrepreneurship in rural and fisheries-dependent areas are additional challenges.

Main priorities and results

A new growth model is needed. About 25 % of ESIF funding is allocated to the key strategic priority of enhancing competitiveness and outward-looking entrepreneurship, which includes sectors such as tourism, agriculture and aquaculture (increase of production by 26.3%), manufacturing, services to enterprises and logistics. Smart specialisation strategies focusing on the competitive advantage of each region are the key to success. Increasing private-sector investment in research and technological development is a key challenge; R&D expenditure is expected to increase from 0.67 % of GDP in 2011 to 1.2 % by the end of the programming period and business expenditure is expected to increase from 0.18 % of GDP in 2011 to 0.4 % by the end of the programming period.

The promotion of sustainable and quality employment, social inclusion and the fight against poverty is a funding priority in the aftermath of the crisis. The focus is on addressing structural problems in the labour market, improving the efficiency of the Greek education and training system and the transition to the labour market, and promoting active inclusion. Investments in employment and training (91 500 and 58 000 beneficiaries respectively) are mainly aimed at the unemployed and long-term unemployed aged 30-44 and young people. Around 134 000 young people aged 15-29 will receive support, mostly under the Youth Employment Initiative. Improving access to childcare services will contribute to active inclusion and improve employment opportunities for around 70 000 women a year. Improved health and eHealth services will improve healthcare for 3.2 million citizens.

Environmental protection and the transition to an environment-friendly economy is a key driver of growth. The promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency is a key priority and is expected to encourage green entrepreneurship. The use of renewable energy sources as a percentage of gross final consumption is expected to increase from 13.83 % in 2013 to 20 % in 2020. Primary energy consumption is estimated to reduce by 2.85 Mtoe in 2020 compared with 2005, and greenhouse gas emissions for non-ETS sectors are expected to be reduced by 4 % compared with 2005. Climate and environmental investments are expected to amount to around EUR 1.5 billion and lead to the creation of 16 000 jobs.

To improve environmental quality, an emphasis will be placed on effective waste management and promoting recycling, the use of waste as resource, the protection, and rational management of water resources and the protection and rehabilitation of marine biological resources. With the ESIF help, the proportion of general municipal waste recovered is expected to increase from 18 % (2011) to 68 % (2020), the proportion of recyclable waste recycled should increase from 30 % (2011) to 54 % (2020), and the percentage of municipal waste going to landfill is expected to be reduced from 82 % (2011) to 32 % (2020).

In the transport sector, the main aim is to further develop the national transport system and promote combined transport (transporting goods using more than one mode of transport) to establish Greece as the main gateway to Europe and a transport hub for the Balkans and the Mediterranean. The key priorities for the railway network are making progress on integrating the north-south TEN-T rail network to ensure interoperability and making adaptations to accommodate the European Railway Traffic Management System. Equally important are the rail connections to the basic TEN-T ports and freight centres in order to promote combined transport and modernisation of the freight transport system. For road transport, the focus is on completing the basic TEN-T road network and developing the comprehensive TEN-T.

Enhancing institutional capacity and the efficiency of public authorities and local self- government is a prerequisite for sustainable development. This will inter alia help the effective and efficient implementation of the 2014-2020 Partnership Agreement. This objective focuses on strengthening the organisational, institutional, and operational capacity of central government, regional and local authorities and human resource development in the public sector as well as increasing the efficiency and the quality within the judiciary.

Use of financial instruments and territorial tools

Around EUR 300 million could be delivered through financial instruments. Most of the support would be aimed at SMEs and, to a lesser extent, the energy, and environmental sectors. Greece intends to make use of the available territorial tools. Urban authorities will pursue sustainable urban development using integrated territorial investments. Local partnerships will be enhanced by community-led local development for rural and fisheries- dependent areas.

Key information

2. Pre-conditions for effective and efficient use of ESIFs

A number of ex ante conditionalities (EACs) had not yet been met when the 2014-2020 operational programmes were adopted, including three of the EMFF-specific EACs. Action plans have been developed and, in a number of investment areas (e.g. ICT R&I strategies for smart specialisation and solid waste), a ‘self-suspension’ clause has been introduced. This means funding cannot be activated until the relevant actions have been completed.

3. ESIF management

New management architecture has been introduced via a law that reduces the number of intermediate bodies and the number of delegations, and introduces measures to simplify the system and speed up implementation. It also aims to strengthen the administrative capacity of the implementing bodies. The design of programmes, programming of funds and coordination of the ESI Funds have been strengthened, anti-fraud measures have been introduced and smooth transitional provisions have been put in place. Recently agreed changes to the regulation make extra liquidity available to Greece to finalize 2007-2013 projects' implementation and start smoothly the 2014-2020 period by increasing the EU co-financing to Greek programmes.

4. Simplification for beneficiaries

Beneficiaries’ funding applications and expenditure declarations must now be submitted electronically. There are compulsory online procedures for the ex ante control of tender documentation and procurement of services. Simplified costs for certain categories of ESF operations have been introduced. Fewer ministerial signatures are now required in approving a project. The approval process for the environmental terms of co-financed projects has been accelerated. Improvements to legislation and archaeological authorisations for expropriation have been introduced. Finally, the national law adopted in December 2014 provides for the review and simplification of all procedures needed to implement the various ESIF projects. 

Source: COM(2015) 639 final, ANNEX II: Country fiches to the Communication from the Commission Investing in jobs and growth - maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds, Brussels, 14.12.2015.