Multiannual financial framework
Twelve member states defend share of cohesion policy
By Gaspard Sebag | Monday 30 May 2011
Twelve member states - all so-called ‘net beneficiaries’ - are calling for “an ambitious cohesion policy” with a share in the EU budget “of at least its present level”. Five months after the ‘letter of five’
(1) and one month ahead of the release of the European Commission’s proposal for the post-2013 multiannual financial framework (MFF), these 12 ‘cohesion’ countries have spelled out their common expectations for the future long-term EU budget.
Swords have been drawn and the fight between member states over the next MFF is already in progress. Poland is set to lead the cohesion countries’ charge during the opening phase of the negotiations over the next MFF, notwithstanding that its hands are not yet tied by its role as Council Presidency. Its demands, coupled with those of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain, were sent to Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski in a letter, on 24 May. Naturally, these focus mainly on cohesion policy.
The 12 signatories defend the EU budget, pointing out its role in view of exiting the crisis. “The EU budget must continue to support the global competitiveness of the EU economy while securing the internal cohesion of the EU,” reads the letter. The twelve argue that cohesion should be the main policy to underpin the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy. In this context, the needs of the regions, as well as the prerogatives and responsibilities at national and regional level, should be given due consideration. While cohesion policy should be for all, it should remain focused on the less prosperous regions, reads the letter. The 12 member states call for transitional phasing-out solutions to be found for the regions leaving the convergence objective (up to 75% of EU GDP average). Finally, the 12 signatories oppose “further compartmentalisation” of cohesion policy and defend the utility of the European Social Fund (ESF).
Piotr Kaczynski, a researcher at CEPS (Centre for European Policy Studies), says that the view of the twelve is clearly more in line with that of the Commission. He recalls, however, that the EU executive - keen to avoid a repeat of the negotiations over the current MFF where its proposal was swept aside straight away - will present a proposal that represents, as much as possible, the sometimes contradictory “anxieties” of all member states and not only of these 12 or of the five of last December. “There’s no direct lobbying,” says Kaczynski. “I’d be surprised” if any one of the member states was pleased with the Commission’s proposal, he adds.
The so-called ‘new’ challenges are not cast aside. The 12 cohesion member states call for the continuation of funding through current budgetary instruments of issues relating to climate change, energy efficiency and security, biodiversity, integration of migrants and democratic changes. Increased financing in the next MFF is requested for policies included in the current Heading 3 (freedom, security and justice).(1) In December 2010, the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Finland called for a real-terms freeze in the next MFF.