Multiannual financial framework
New proposal worries Friends of Cohesion
By Isabelle Smets | Tuesday 24 July 2012
The European Commission’s 6 July adaptation of its proposal for the EU budget for 2014-2020 (multiannual financial framework) does not sit well with the Friends of Cohesion. This group of 15 states - Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain plus Croatia – the main beneficiaries of EU Structural Funds, takes a negative view of the reduction of the cohesion policy budget by around €5.5 billion (for the EU27, without Croatia) compared with the Commission’s initial proposals. They voiced their concerns at the General Affairs Council, on 24 July.
The cohesion policy budget was adapted in the light of the latest statistics available on regional GDP. The Commission’s original proposal was based on figures for 2006-2008, whereas the revised proposal is based on figures for 2007-2009. The revised calculation of national allocations also incorporates the most recent forecasts and macroeconomic projections.
Poland served as spokesman for the 15 states concerned from the start of the debate. “We have reached the limits for further reductions in the cohesion policy budgets,” said its representative, stressing the “paradox” of the new figures: less money for cohesion policy even though the European Council only recently highlighted its role in providing support for investments and growth. The revised proposal “is obviously not consistent with the message of the European Council”.
This message was repeated successively by the 15 Friends of Cohesion. Hungary in particular considers itself wronged. “We find ourselves in the most unfavourable situation,” said its delegation. The budget on which it was counting is decreased by “nearly 30%”. This is “politically unacceptable”. “It is a matter of principle.”
Poland and Hungary were the first two countries to speak up and set the tone for the remainder of the debate. “Savings will have to be found somewhere else, not in cohesion policy,” said the Czech delegation. Slovakia complained of a reduction that would be “above average in our case”. For Malta, “this would be disastrous,” “a real threat to cohesion policy”. Even Italy, which is not part of the Friends of Cohesion, commented that the proposals do not correspond to the European Council’s objective of growth and job creation. Many noted that the less developed regions would end up paying the price.
For cohesion policy beneficiary states, this is far more than the mere “technical adjustment” mentioned by Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski. “This is a technical exercise but it has political implications,” said Poland on behalf of the 15 states - implications that have sent a chill through these states.