I am currently visiting Slovakia, one of the eight countries involved in the Task Force on Better Implementation, as the country is lagging behind in terms of absorption of EU funds from the 2007-2013 period. I want to congratulate the Slovak authorities on their active participation in the work of the Task Force and assure them that they are not alone, as the Commission services are here to help them.
After having launched TAIEX REGIO PEER 2 PEER on Tuesday, the new expertise exchange initiative to support local administrations to efficiently manage Cohesion Policy funds, I am now in Slovakia to address the issue of low absorption rates in some Member States, exposing them to what we call "risks of decommitments", the risk of losing allocated EU funds at the end of a programming period.
This is what the Task Force on Better Implementation is here for; one of my first acts as Commissioner for Regional Policy was to set up this special Task Force to help countries that most need support to spend their remaining funds from the 2007-2013 period on good projects that really improve people's lives.
Slovakia is one of the eight countries of the Task Force along with Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Slovenia. The Task Force will be my top political priority in 2015 and I hope it will provide the necessary final push for the 2007-2013 period and help us learn valuable lessons for the new period.
I am meeting Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, Deputy Prime Minister Ľubomír Vážny (pictured below) and representatives of the Managing Authorities dealing with EU funds to exchange on this issue. Implementation needs to be speeded up so that funds are not lost to Slovakia. The investments are crucial for the development of the country; Cohesion Policy funds and national co-financing represented 86% of public investment in 2011-2013, the highest of all Member States.
For 2014-2020, Slovakia will benefit from 14 billion euro from Cohesion Policy funds. The country was one of the first to have signed all their Operational Programmes by the end of December. These six programmes are sound, consistent and forward-looking. Each and every one of them focuses on key measures to bring back trust and growth in Slovak cities and regions. Now it is up to us and the Slovak authorities to make sure that these programmes are implemented in an efficient way, so they will directly benefit the Slovak people.