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The Government’s Planning Bureau insisted on 14 February that all EU funds available to Cyprus for 2004-06 would be utilized within the specified deadlines. Its statement followed the publication of a European Commission (EC) report showing that Cyprus’ absorption of its 2004-06 EU funding stood at 62 per cent, the lowest proportion among the 10 countries which joined the EU in May 2004.

According to the EC report, the average absorption rate of the 10 new EU members was 75 per cent, with Hungary heading the list on 82 per cent. Among the 15 pre-enlargement member states, utilization of EU funds averaged 84 per cent, varying between 94 per cent for Sweden and 73 per cent for Greece.

The Bureau noted that EU funds allocated to Cyprus for 2004-06 totalled €109 million, consisting of €55 million from the structural fund and €54 million from the cohesion fund. It said that €28 million of structural funding had been absorbed by end-2007 and that a further €11 million would be absorbed shortly, while plans were in hand for the absorption of the remainder by the end-2008 deadline. Of the available cohesion funding, €28 million had been taken up to date or would be shortly and the remaining €26 million would be utilized by the end-2009 deadline.

The Bureau attributed the slow take-up of EU funds to factors such as the delay, due to local objections, in the construction of a new  waste disposal plant at Lymbia, the biggest of the projects attracting funding. It also pointed out that whereas other new member states could use structural funding for agricultural subsidies, which could usually be disbursed quickly, Cyprus was barred from such usage because of its high per capita income.

Cyprus will receive €5.9 million of €9 billion in cohesion funding approved by the EC on 20 February for 450 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects across the EU in 2007-13. Announced the following day was Cyprus’ research, technological development and innovation programme for 2008-10, the €160 million cost of which will be partly funded by the EU.