On 22 and 23 January I visited Slovenia to officially launch the Partnership Agreement. After talks with both the Government and the Parliament, I left reassured that Slovenia is on the right track with implementing regional policy programmes.
On Thursday, I had the pleasure to meet with Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar and with Ms Alenka Smerkolj, Minister responsible for Development, Strategic Projects and Cohesion. I congratulated the Prime Minister and Minister Smerkolj on the the high quality work that Slovenia has delivered in preparing the 2014-2020 period and I urged them to make full use of the Technical Assistance funds, which have been scarcely used in 2007-2013. Neither Mr Cerar, nor Ms Smerkolj had been in government before, but they seemed on top of everything and in particular of their country's development needs. We had open and friendly talks and I left convinced that regional policy is in good hands in Slovenia.
I also had a very interesting exchange of views with the chairmen of parliamentary committees in charge of dealing with EU funds at the Slovenian National Assembly. I encouraged Slovenians to get off to an early start with the implementation of the new programme so as to keep up the momentum of the tremendous efforts that were made last year to implement the 2007-2013 programmes, especially regarding the ERDF performance.
Regional Policy on the Ground
The second day of my trip was dedicated to the visit of EU-funded projects in the Western part of Slovenia. I had the chance to see the spectacular Škocjan Caves, which were renovated under 2007-2013 ERDF allocation. This touristic infrastructure is a good example of how our policy can significantly contribute to the revitalization of a region, making it more attractive for tourists, and thus improving the local economy.
I also saw the upgrading work on the railway Divača - Koper, also co-financed by the EU Structural Funds, which will ensure safe, sustainable and environmental-friendly travel conditions for the people living in this region.
The mission also marked the first stage of my tour of the Member States facing challenges in absorbing EU funds from the 2007-2013 period before the end of 2015.
On the low implementation of Cohesion Funds' investments, I'm confident that a sustained, opened and fruitful dialogue with the Slovenian authorities will help the country absorb as much EU funds as possible before the end of 2015. In the meantime, the task force that I set in the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban policy will come up with tailor-made proposals to help this beautiful country make the most out of EU funds!