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E.U.-hopeful Poland gets 467 million euros in pre-accession aid

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Warsaw (dpa) - European Union candidate Poland Thursday received 467 million euros in Phare pre-accession funds to finance select projects crucial to its preparation for membership in the bloc planned for 2004.

European Commission Ambassador to Warsaw Bruno DeThomas and Poland's European Affairs Minister Danuta Huebner signed a final agreement on the funds Thursday in Warsaw.

Poland will have three years to use the money as part of the ''Phare 2001 National Programme''. Some 15 million euros will go to help rebuild the lives of Poles struck by this summer's devastating floods, while 56 million euros is slated the development of cross-border cooperation.

Funds will be spent on stimulating small and medium-sized business development in regions of the country plagued by structural unemployment.

The E.U. aid will also help revamp Poland's environmental programmes, its lethargic justice and administrative sectors and the cumbersome traditional farming sector.

Minister Huebner vowed the projects financed by the new tranche of Phare funds were well prepared and would not fall victim to the organisational chaos which caused E.U. funds to be withdrawn in the past.

A whopping 2.5 billion euros in Phare aid was earmarked for Poland between 1989-2000. However, as Huebner pointed out Thursday, only 70 per cent of the sum was used, with the remaining 30 per cent being withdrawn by the E.U. from ill-conceived and executed Polish projects.

Poland is the largest of 10 mostly ex-communist states currently slated for E.U. membership by 2004.

The Phare programme is financed by the European Union to assist the applicant countries of central Europe in their preparations for joining the bloc. dpa sib sc

AP-NY-12-20-01 1108EST

Copyright (c) 2001 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 12/20/2001 11:08:50

Deutsche Presse Agentur: Copyright (c) dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH