The public administration in Greece has been supported in its European project work since 1996 by Management Organisation Unit SA (MOU), a public body which has recently seen a shift in its backing and possible shifts to come in its status.
European Stuctural Funds cover 95% of the salaries of MOU staff. The organisation has been for the last 17 years aiding the Greek regional authorities, as well as the central government in the absorption of EU funding and the successful undertaking of European projects.
Instead of maintaining the high level impact that this organization has had on Greek affairs, there are certain factions in the government that seek to minimize the output. Meanwhile the MOU has received and continues to receive supporting statements of political leaders (current and previous Ministers of development of Greece) and of almost all the elected Governors of Greek regional authorities.
Meanwhile, disputes continue on MOU’s status as a financially and administratively independent legal entity; as does the often-questionable abolition of operational units and Special Services in the name of the restructuring of the public administration. Arbitrary salary cutbacks have hit the organization hard, with the average cutbacks of the public sector being far lower than what MOU staff have experienced. Seven consecutive salary cuts (more than 50% net salary reduction) reaching an average annual net income of about €14,000, while co-financed (95%) by the European Structural Funds. It is this last element that is most incomprehensible from a third party perspective. The Greek government reducing spending on employees nearly fully financed by the European Structural Funds is counterintuitive as any external sources of financing are precious for Greece in this time of high interest rates and harsh bailout conditions.
Furthermore, recently there has been an examination of a change of the MOU’s status (a possible full or partial privatization) or even the dissolution of MOU. Without the MOU, Greece, whether via the central government or regional authorities, would lose much of its capacity for absorption and proper implementation of EU funding and projects.
The MOU was set up by the European Commission in Greece following a cooperation memorandum between the EC and the Greek government. The project sprang to life via a personnel selection process that was competitive (the process served as one of the models that the Greek government used to model it’s own selection mechanisms), based on the European Union institutional recruitment process and employs 1,150 staff members today.
Up to 95% of these employees holds a university degree, 46% have a postgraduate (Masters Level) degree, and 5% have obtained a doctoral thesis and PhD. Their expertise revolves around knowledge of the legislative framework of the European Structural and Investment Funds and other innovative instruments; project and programme planning, approval, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, auditing; state aid monitoring; negotiations skills and representation of Greece in transnational Committees.
The expertise of the MOU is invaluable if the next Multiannual Financial Framework is taken into account.