Labour and Pension System Minister Mirando Mrsic and the head of the Croatian Employment Service (HZZ), Ankica Paun Jarallah, signed on Thursday seven European Social Fund (ESF) contracts for financing active employment policy measures in the 2015-17 period worth HRK 1.45 billion.

Mrsic said that in Croatia active employment measures for groups that were more difficult to employ had changed the labour market, notably in terms of employing young people and women. "We are starting to spend funds from the 2014-2020 perspective and new possibilities are opening up to draw funds for active employment measures," said Mrsic.

Accusations by the Opposition that not enough funds will be drawn from the ESF have been proven untrue with the signing of these contracts, Croatia has HRK 1.45 billion at its disposal until 2017 and that will enable quality implementation of employment programmes, Mrsic said.

He dismissed claims by the Croatian Democratic Union  (HDZ) member of the European Parliament Ivana Maletic that no money would be drawn from European funds until 2016, noting that "some would obviously prefer such a situation."

There are no delays, there will be no delays in the approval of active employment policy measures, professional training, public works and self-employment, funds have been ensured and are being spent as they arrive so there is no need to alert job-seekers for election purposes, said Mrsic.

He went on to say that work on the contracts had lasted two months and that the contracts were part of the government's previously defined operational programmes that would enable the employment of a larger number of young people and an increase in their allowances that currently amount to HRK 2,400, depending on market needs and the budget potential.

Paun Jarallah said that the 460 million euros that would be drawn from the ESF until 2020 was a huge challenge for the HZZ, which had been implementing projects designed to finance active employment policy measures and the upgrading of institutional capacity as part of the Operational Programme "Efficient Human Resources 2014-2020".

The ESF is one of the five European structural and investment funds that have operated within a joint framework since last year, that have complementary goals and are the main source of investment at the EU level for assistance to the member states in efforts to increase growth and employment.

Of the seven contracts, most funding, totalling in excess of HRK 757, will be spent to implement active employment policy measures for young people, while the other contracts refer to encouraging further training and acquisition of new competencies and skills, support for employment and self-employment, education, the training and retraining of the jobless, support for the employment of groups that have difficulty finding a job, support for self-employment and active employment policy measures for young people who have been out of work for a long time.

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