Fico cabinet has new uses for EU funds

THE CABINET of Prime Minister Robert Fico wants to change the manner in which Ř11 billion in funding from the European Union is to be used in Slovakia from 2007 to 2013 by earmarking less money for education and more for regional development than planned by the former Dzurinda government.

THE CABINET of Prime Minister Robert Fico wants to change the manner in which Ř11 billion in funding from the European Union is to be used in Slovakia from 2007 to 2013 by earmarking less money for education and more for regional development than planned by the former Dzurinda government.

The Construction Ministry, for example, proposes to cut the previous cabinet's plan to spend over Ř3.4 billion on highway construction to Ř2.5 billion, as well as to cut over Ř1 billion from support for research and the development of a knowledge-based economy.

On the other hand, spending on regional schools, hospitals, social facilities, monuments and the environment would be boosted from the Dzurinda government's plan.

For the Transport Ministry and Education Ministry, the changes mean serious problems. Transport Minister Ľubomír Vážny fears the cuts will imperil the government's plans to build 100 kilometres of new freeway by 2010, while the Education Ministry had an entire programme to renew school infrastructure scratched.

According to members of the ruling coalition, the new proposal, by putting more money in the hands of regional governments, will lessen the danger of its being used for grandiose ministry schemes that don't benefit the average citizen.

The cabinet's new proposal, which is still being debated by the ministries, should be ready for approval by the European Commission by mid-September.


Tom Nicholson

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