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1. 2. 2020 18:35

The Cohesion Friends Summit in Portugal calls on the European Commission to Review the Budget

Representatives of 17 Cohesion Friends countries agree on a common approach to change the European budget, 1 February 2020.
Representatives of 17 Cohesion Friends countries agree on a common approach to change the European budget, 1 February 2020.
Cohesion policy is a key investment instrument of the European Union. This was confirmed again by the representatives of 17 countries at the Cohesion Friends Summit held on Saturday, 1 February 2020 in the Portuguese city of Beja near Lisbon.

The summit meeting followed the summit organised by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in Prague in November 2019. The aim of the meeting was to confirm the common position of the countries supporting a strong cohesion policy before the final stage of the negotiation of the EU's multi-annual budget for the period 2021–2027.

The joint declaration on the multi-annual financial framework is the main outcome of the Saturday summit. The declaration once again underlines the key requirements of the cohesion countries agreed by the leaders in Prague. It rejects the cuts in the cohesion policy budget and puts emphasis so that no Member State would suffer from a sharp reduction in cohesion funds. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš also emphasised the clear disagreement with the proposed cuts at the summit.

“In my speech, I criticised the draft budget because the former European Commission had never really explained what its priorities were. The budget for the next period from 2021 to 2027 is 52 billion higher, but traditional policies such as cohesion, the investments, and agriculture fall by 95 billion, and centrally managed programmes rise by 150 billion. This is not logical because seventeen Member States clearly state: We want cohesion, we do not want to reduce the budget by 37 billion, quite contrarily, we want to increase it. I think the Commission should respect this. I even think that the Commission should have come to the European Council first and ask: What are your priorities? Which did not happen,” said the Prime Minister after the meeting.

The Cohesion Friends countries have also reiterated the need for sufficient flexibility for efficient use of funds in the context of specific economic conditions in a respective Member State or region. The prime ministers of the participating countries also unequivocally called for the abolition of the so-called rebates, or relief from the contribution to the budget, which favours some rich countries of the Union.

“I see a lot of money there that could be redistributed. We do not think that any new resources should be sought, because this is hard to agree – on levies for allowances, for plastics. These are all things that would be at the expense of the national budgets. We certainly insist on the abolition of rebates. I do not see any reason why the Czech Republic should contribute to them. This means that we are paying their advantage for the selected states. And that should finally cease. It is not little money, it is 14.5 billion euros,” stressed Andrej Babiš.

According to the participating countries, cohesion policy has an irreplaceable role in removing differences between the various EU regions and thus contributes significantly to the completion of the single market, from which all Member States benefit.

"It is extremely important, and not just for our government, but also for the government that will come after us after 2021, to receive the money we need for investments,” concluded the Prime Minister.

15 joint EU Member States signed the joint declaration. They are considered to be cohesion countries because they have the regions in their territory that are more or less lagging behind the European regional average.

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