Brussels insists the Czech Republic allocate EU money directly for Romani inclusion
The Czech Republic claims it has convinced the European Commission to back down from most of its 88 exceptions to the country's plans for drawing EU money. However, the Czechs have yet to reach agreement with the Commission on several topics, such as financing the inclusion of Romani people into society and the absence of a Service Act.
Deputy Regional Development Minister Daniel Braun delivered the information to journalists on Wednesday. The first EU-funded subsidy calls, according to the ministry, should be announced by the end of this year.
The Czech Republic met informally with a delegation from Brussels on Tuesday. Braun said the demanding nature of that meeting could be seen from the fact that it lasted five and a half hours.
"The European Commission has stated that the way our side has dealt with their comments is good. The conclusion of the negotiation of the Partnership Agreement, therefore, is well on its way," Braun said.
The official did, however, admit that there still remain a few points on which both sides disagree. "The Commission is greatly emphasizing the Romani question. It wants to clearly know how much money will be invested into that area. The Czech Republic argues that the Czech legal system does not make it possible to distinguish between people on the basis of ethnicity or race, and wants to use the EU money for socially excluded localities," Braun said.
"Romani integration is not the problem with concluding the Partnership Agreement - the problem is the long-term inflexibility of the state administration with respect to collecting data disaggregated by ethnicity. Fourteen years ago the European Commission issued the Racial Equality Directive 2000/43/EC in which it called on the Member States to collect ethnic data. Without such data, all strategies will be developed in a vaccuum and it will not be possible to follow their impact. It is correct to state that social inclusion extends beyond issues of ethnicity, but we must not forget the multiply disdavantaged groups who live in social exclusion," says Filip Rameš, manager of the Open Society Fund Prague's program on the Education of Children and Youth.
Even more serious problems are those of the absence of a Service Act and the country's lack of compliance with EU legislation when evaluating the environmental impact of large-scale constructions through the so-called EIA process. The latter problem has been solved by the Czech Republic promising that a new law about the EIA and a Construction Act will take effect in 2015 that will resolve these discrepancies.
"The more serious thing is the Service Act. The Commission will not base its approval or disapproval of the Partnership Agreement on its absence, but it will want to continuously review the various versions of the Act and its implementing regulations. It is also asking for guarantees and pledges that its adoption will occur in a form that corresponds to EU law," noted Braun, adding that such harmonization also awaits a text on support for nurseries and preschools for children between 0 and 3 years old.
On the other hand, the Czech Republic has managed to achieve success with what are called "negative priorities", i.e., areas that Brussels does not want to finance with European money. From the Czech analyses it could be seen that EU support is important to increasing the country's competitiveness.
"From the EU money it will be possible, under certain precisely dictated conditions, to finance the construction and modernization of lower-class roads, to renovate our most important cultural monuments, to build incinerators, and to establish waterway transportation linked to greater transport access to Germany," Braun said. The final version of the document, which will become the background document for awarding EU subsidies to the Czech Republic for the 2014-2020 subsidy period, was to have been delivered by Czech representatives to representatives of the Commission yesterday.
The Regional Development Ministry expects to sign the agreement during the summer or in September at the latest and the preliminary announcements for the first subsidy calls are expected to be published in October at the latest, with the launch of the application process for subsidies underway by year end. The Czech Republic can receive as much as EUR 22 billion during the 2014-2020 period from several EU funds.
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