NEWS BRIEFS

NGO's call for greater role in funding choices

Citing a lack of transparency in how the government distributes European Union funding, a group of 20 NGO leaders has sent an open letter to Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda asking to be involved in the process.

"The situation is urgent. The government needs to come up with an idea of how to divide the money now, not wait until the last minute. The government is supposed to discuss their plans with civic associations and foundations and they haven't said anything," said Juraj Mesík, chairman of the environmental NGO Ekopolis and one of the authors of the letter.

At issue are millions of dollars of development funding from foreign development agencies like PHARE, SAPARD and ISPA, earmarked to support infrastructure, environment, transport, rural and agricultural development. Currently, the NGO leaders charge, responsibility for dividing the money is solely in the hands of three state agencies, openeing the door to lobbying and corruption. EU rules, however, mandate that other parties are also consulted.

"We are only asking that Slovakia follows EU legislation. Other countries in the region are already working on national development plans for this money. Here, it's a mess," Mesík said.

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