This year Croatia will absorb EU funds worth around one billion euros, Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Tomislav Tolusic said at the opening of the EU Funds Week on Monday.
"So far we have only been taking crumbs from the rich EU table, but that is about to change," said Tolusic at the event which was taking place in Zagreb.
"If we look at the budget period 2014-2020, of the 10.7 billion euros that has been available to us, we have absorbed 146 million, an amount that resembles a statistical error," the minister said, adding that the planned absorption of one billion euros this year was to be achieved by simplifying project procedures related to application for EU funding, with the help of 200 new tenders and maximum coordination on the ground.
"This year we plan to obtain one billion euros, but in 2017 and 2018 that amount should be much higher," he said, adding that the region of Slavonia should be the main recipient of EU funding.
He went on to say that Croatia lacked experts on EU funds and announced new hiring, noting that 85% of those experts' salaries would be paid by the European Commission.
Agriculture Minister Davor Romic, too, said that the results so far in the absorption of EU funds had been poor.
"My expectations are much higher, notably with regard to the fact that 2.3 billion euros is available for agriculture, which is a huge amount that should be absorbed by the rural sector," Romic said, adding that farming subsidies would not be reduced this year.