Czech Republic prepares for EU structural funds
As the Czech Republic stands poised to join the European Union, it could soon be in for a financial windfall, as the country will be entitled to draw on structural funds immediately after accession. Every organisation that wants European financial support has to prepare a detailed project plan. However, many Czech companies do not know how to do this. Consequently, the Ministry for Regional Development has organised a series of seminars to provide information on the official requirements for applying.
Structural funds are part of the official European policy on economic and social cohesion, which is aimed at eliminating differences between regions and ensuring their smooth development within the European Union. Between 2004 and 2006, around 2.5 billion Euro could be made available for projects put forward by Czech applicants. This amount is five times as high as the level of pre-accession funds. Petr Budinsky from the Institute of Finance and Administration, which co-organised the seminars, explains:
"The volume of the funds is very high in comparison with previous projects and previous funds, many of which did not receive any financial support. But now the good news is that, if the project is good, there is a very good chance that it will be accepted."
The funds should help Czech companies to compete on the highly developed European market. There are no set formulae for applying for financial help, but there are some strictly set rules. The applicant must describe the project and explain its benefits. Each project should include a detailed time schedule, budget and expert review. If it is accepted, the European Union pays up to 50% of the project cost, with the rest being covered by national resources. However, some costs, such as taxation or materials that do not originate in the European Union, are excluded from financial support. The project is then strictly monitored throughout its implementation. In order to get as much financial support as possible, it is important that all applicants are properly informed about application procedures. As Mr. Budinsky explains, they have to understand the basic principles of EU funding:
"Each project must be submitted in writing and this is a very difficult task, because people and companies in the Czech Republic have not been prepared to do so. One of the main goals of our seminars is to let them understand what the main obstacles are and which main conditions must be fulfilled."
Mr. Budinsky is rather optimistic, because there is still enough time to prepare suitable projects. It is also a good sign that many people are interested in the seminars, with up to 100 people attending each of the events, which were held all over the country. Those attending included many representatives of regional authorities and NGOs. To inform the public, the Ministry for Regional Development has also launched a website and published a lot of material. There are also several regional agencies to advise on European structural funds all over the country.