Never refuse a gift. This concept has been grasped in Lithuania and Estonia way better than in Latvia. As against its neighbours, Latvia is delaying with EU funds spending in the new planning horizon (2014-2020). Whilst they are still preparing documentation in Riga, Vilnius has already commenced the allocation of funds. Tallinn, which has made the biggest progress among the Baltic States, has started to conclude first contracts with recipients of European subsidies.
However, as regards the previous period of European funds digestion (2007 – 2013), Latvia taking the dust of the other two Baltic States still has managed to take a middle position in the list of 11 countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Only Lithuania, Slovenia, Estonia and Hungary had managed to allocate the European money in a better way than Latvia.
In 97% of all the contracts concluded in Latvia, funding has been eventually provided. By comparison, Czech Republic had managed to receive money in 89 % of cases only, while Romania just in 73% of the cases. There is still Croatia (57%); however, at this point one should give a pass taking into account that the country had joined EU at the very end of planning horizon only (in 2013), which had reduced contract conclusion possibilities substantially.
As regards EU funds, EUR 175.89 billion in total was accessible to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which amounts to 14.8% of the annual gross regional product on average. Out of that sum, 4.5 billion EUR stood to the credit of Latvia, while 3.4 billion EUR – to the credit of Estonia and 6.8 billion EUR – to the credit of Lithuania.
It would be interesting to re-calculate the total amount of European financial aid in terms of per-capita. It appears that Brussels has prepared the Baltic States-lowest sum for an average Latvian (2.298 EUR in Latvia, 2.320 EUR in Lithuania, and 2.592 EUR in Estonia). However, if we draw a comparison between Latvia and the entire region of Central and Eastern Europe, Latvia must not grumble since the mean figure constituted 1 847.9 EUR on the regional scale.
So what have European billions been spent for? Almost 1000 km of highways and more than 50 km of railroads were renovated at the expense of EU funds in Latvia. Due to EU subsidies, more than 5 000 new jobs have been created, while 205.5 thousand of unemployed people were involved into community service operatons. As regards the education sector, more than 21.8 thousand of teachers were furnished with an opportunity of upgrading their professional skills. Thanks to water industry streamlining projects implementation, water quality in bib taps of almost 200 thousand of residents of Latvia has improved.
Taking into account the number of unemployed people and the volume of unrepaired roads remaining in Latvia, the delay with the disbursement of a new portion of EU subsidies (4.39 billion EUR) sets one at a gaze. Don’t refuse a gift!