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Member states must present projects to the EU before December 31 if they want them to benefit from European funding. In the run-up to this deadline, governments are frantically trying to ensure that they have made full use of available cash. This is notably the case in central and eastern European countries, which are the main beneficiaries of Brussels’ largesse.

In Sofia, Trud's frontpage headline announces: “Bulgaria must spend 7 million per day or lose everything.” More than 615 million leva (approximately €308m) earmarked for use in 2013 “will have to be allocated before the end of the year or it will be forfeit,” notes the newspaper. The full quota of funds has yet to be used by six of the seven ongoing programmes established by the government. More than half of the overall sum is earmarked for aid to companies to be distributed by the competitiveness programme.

In Bucharest, România liberă reports that “instead of the pipes and running water that the government pledged to install in villages of more than 2,000 residents when it acceded to the EU in 2007,” Romania could have to contend with fines worth several hundred thousands euros for political and financial misdealing. The daily adds that Romania has the —

… lowest uptake of [European] funds of any EU state. The situation is bad, even in very wealthy areas. In Snagov for example, which is home to several high profile politicians of various political hues, two out of five villages do not have running water.

“The fact that Romania’s performance is even worse is not much consolation” for Slovenia, which has yet to allocate €882m of European funds for 2007-2013, notes Dnevnik in Ljubljana. The newspaper remarks that the sum represents close to 48 per cent of the total funding granted to the former Yugoslav republic, which is close to the European average. Dnevnik also reports that only 12 per cent of the 94 per cent of Slovenian entrepreneurs who are aware of the existence of European funds have any idea of the sums available.