Slovenia is the penultimate country in the European Union in terms of spending the funds from the Recovery and Resilience Plan, and in terms of our Cohesion Policy, we have fallen from 4th to 9th place. Apparently, the government of Robert Golob believes that we do not need the money for development and recovery that is being offered to us on a platter, or perhaps they are simply not capable of absorbing the same amount of money as we absorbed under the former government of Janez Janša. The Recovery and Resilience Plan, which was drawn up by the Janša government, was already being implemented, and tenders were already being pushed for the renovation and construction of water and sewage systems, for digitalisation and for development projects. The programming documents for the Cohesion Policy 2021-2027 were also being finalised, and the absorption of the 2014-2020 funds was well underway. After years of left-wing governments, Slovenia improved its absorption of EU funds under the Janša government and was already four percentage points above the EU average, ranking 4th among all European Union Member States in terms of absorption of funds. But now, we rank lower again.
It is undeniable that the former government of Janez Janša was extremely effective in a number of areas, including reversing the disastrous trends in the absorption of EU funds that were ineffectively tackled by former left governments in just two years, but with the Golob government, we are back on the bottom.
Slovenia is at the bottom among all Member States
According to Deloitte, Slovenia ranks second to last among all Member States with €231 million in advance payments for the implementation of the plan, while Croatia ranks third with €2.2 billion, or 35 percent of the funds disbursed. The situation for Slovenia has not improved significantly to date, but in early March, the European Commission gave a preliminary positive assessment to the first request for payment of €50 million of European funds for recovery and resilience, reports the media outlet Slovenec.
Long-term care was also removed from the Recovery and Resilience Plan
As Slovenia will receive €286 million less from the European Recovery and Development Plan than originally negotiated by the Janša government, the government of Robert Golob is now proposing to cut back on parts of the Recovery and Resilience Plan by reducing funding and delaying some projects. The proposal to delay the implementation of long-term care was one that caused quite a stir. The Janša government had promised the European Commission that the implementation of the law would take place in the second quarter of 2022, but then there was a change of power. The government of Robert Golob has delayed its implementation: Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Mesec, said at the time that the Long-Term Care Act would start being implemented on the 1st of January 2024, but now they are proposing to delay it even further – to the second quarter of next year. The government’s proposal was met with negative reactions from the opposition in the National Assembly.
Namely, when MP Rado Gladek asked the Finance Committee a few days ago what guided the government in removing projects from the Recovery and Resilience Plan, Minister of Finance Klemen Boštjančič replied, “The key principle that we at the Office for Recovery and Resilience applied when we removed these projects was what is the least likely to be implemented by 2026. An additional criterion was what is the easiest to miss. These were the criteria.”
Another special chapter is the absorption of cohesion funds, which magically improved under right-wing governments and then – what a coincidence – crashed under left-wing ones. In fact, in 2020, Slovenia saw the highest-ever uptake of EU funds in the 2014-2020 financial perspective, at 90 percent of the planned funds. Of the €112.5 million planned, €101.4 million of EU funds were absorbed. In the area of European Cohesion Policy alone, the share was 93 percent. In 2021, the trend in the absorption of EU funds was further accelerated, with a doubling of the realisation to €217.4 million.
Now, the government has taken almost half a year to reallocate a modest €29 million from the €3.2 billion Programme and finalise the document with the European Commission, reports the media outlet Slovenec. So, what is going on with the government of Robert Golob? It is constantly saying that there is no money in the coffers, but at the same time, it is apparently unable to draw the funds that are being offered to us on a platter.