"The European Social Fund directive does not foresee the possibility of extending the period of 18 months to utilize approved funding, and Croatia did not ask for any extension for funds granted after the earthquakes in Zagreb and Petrinja," European Commission spokesman, Stefan De Keersmaecker, said on Wednesday.
De Keersmaecker was in an online briefing, replying to a question by N1 television’s reporter, Ana Mlinaric, who asked about Croatia’s options. Although Croatia was granted around €1 billion in funding, the government managed to actually spend only 3 percent of that, with the deadline to use the funds expiring in June this year.
He added that ESF funds can be used for any damages and costs caused by the disaster from the date of the occurence onwards, meaning any costs of disaster relief can be covered by the funding.
Asked if thee were cases when countries had to return any unspent money, De Keerrsmaecker said that he did not have any concrete figures “but based on experience the money granted was all used up, in principle.”
ESF funds are not earmarked for reconstruction but for emergency situations after natural disasters, hence the deadline to use those funds is just 18 months. Costs that qualify for this include costs of firefighting and rescue services, deliveries of food, clothing and medicines, accommodation, alternative housing for public services such as schools, etc.
Croatia had received €683.7 million after the Zagreb earthquake in March 2020 and another €319 million after the Petrinja earthquake in December 2020.