Today, 50 consultancy firms and about 70 other companies were invited to a EU information event that was organised by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce in Zagreb. It was an occasion to follow the news on how the EU Finances are going to be used in the next financial period, more specifically in 2015 within Croatia.
In the initial part of the program there were presentations about operational programs (OP) for the Competitiveness and Cohesion OP as well as for the Agriculture OP. Both these operational programs are already submitted to the European Commission for their approval. Even though it has been stated that OP have to be approved before the January 2015 it has been announced, also in this occasion that approvals will probably happen in May 2015.
Also, the public calls for EU financing for this autumn were postponed and will be announced in January 2015. In the presentations the forthcoming announcements from the Ministry of Agriculture and whether the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds or from the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Crafts have been displayed in a basic overview.
From the information presented it is to be concluded that there is the necessity to be prepared for these calls as the funds of about €280 million for developing the SME sector and an additional €338 million for agriculture will start to be spent in the January Ministerial Calls, with an open end duration until the funds are spent. The calls are not going to be for project ideas but for completely prepared projects.
During the presentation the problems were highlighted surrounding the expected insufficient absorption of available funds. The absorption of the EU funds in Croatia in general depends on the capacities of a) the Ministries and the Government’s capacity to evaluate, monitor, and in the first place to finalise the legislative foundations and b) the capacity of the potential users of the funds, mostly on their capacity of strategic planning, preparations and capacities to implement the projects.
Knowing that the capacity could be the problematic issue, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce intended that today’s event steers the communication between the consultant firms and local governments.
Regarding the EU funding the consultants can help in the following fields:
the strategic planning (what would we as the company want to achieve)
preparing the base list of the projects that are eligible for the funding (what do we need to achieve our plan)
following the news and the possibilities in the financial frame of the EU (combining European structural funds (ESI) with other possible financing tools in the EU framework end with those generally on the market)
preparing the project applications with all the range of activities (from the studies, technical documentation, calculations and estimations, and to implement the project once finances are put in place. These activities include taking care of lots of details, rules and experiences of what works and what doesn’t)
The presentation minutes were followed with an extensive dialogue meeting between the consultants and private and public sector. These collaborative initiatives are very welcome in Croatia as it is the most recent EU member state and a lot of training is needed in how to use the EU financial tools.