Polish PM cranks up pressure for huge chunk of aid budget

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Series Details Vol.7, No.21, 24.5.01, p2
Publication Date 24/05/2001
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Date: 24/05/01

By Simon Taylor

Jerzy Buzek estimated that Poland could reap anywhere from €4 to 10 billion per year to improve infrastructure and help depressed areas. This will put additional strain on the EU's budget for 2007 to 2013.

Spain has already insisted on guarantees that it will not lose its share of regional aid when new members join in 2004-2005. But for Madrid to keep its allocation of over 40% of the overall budget, net contributor member states will have to cough up more money - a move which Germany, the largest paymaster, has already rejected.

Buzek also said the EU should scrap the rule limiting total value of regional assistance to 4% of a country's overall economic output. "Five percent of GDP would be a better solution," Buzek said, arguing that his country would have no problems spending more money. "It is not difficult for great infrastructure projects - motorways, canals, etc. - to absorb [extra funds]."

Buzek elaborated his concerns in a speech at this week's forum on economic and social cohesion. He insisted that future member states like Poland should be treated the same as existing EU countries when the criteria on eligibility are being applied.

"We have noted that in each of the presented hypotheses we achieve a result which is not acceptable: that the population of the poorest regions, i.e. from the candidate countries, would receive less assistance than the Objective One regions of the present Union," he said, adding that was the result of the 4% limit only being applied to new members.

Buzek expressed disappointment that the Commission had not proposed an increase in the Union's regional aid budget to meet competing member states' interests. "If the budget remains at its present size," he said, "it would make the question of the choice of eligible regions, as well as the distribution of structural fund, much more difficult to resolve."

Buzek said he was sympathetic towards Spain's position on its share of regional aid: "We understand the situation in old member states.because from a statistical point of view they will lose support and will be in a politically difficult situation."

He also contradicted comments by his chief advisor on European affairs, Jacek Sarusz-Wolski, saying that 2004 was a more realistic date for Poland to join the EU than the official target of 2003. "We are still keeping the date of 2003," he stated.

Poland's Prime Minister says his country could receive up to a third of the EU's €30 billion regional aid budget once it joins the Union.

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Countries / Regions