BEJA, Portugal — Fifteen EU countries said Saturday cohesion policy spending must be continued at current levels in a deal on the next long-term EU budget.
The request from the so-called “Friends of Cohesion” alliance came as leaders and officials gathered in Portugal ahead of a summit on the EU budget in Brussels on February 20.
“The funding for Cohesion Policy for the 2021-2027 period should maintain the level of the 2014-2020 MFF [Multiannual Financial Framework] in real terms,” the group wrote in a declaration adopted at the meeting.
“No Member State should suffer a short and disproportional decrease of its Cohesion allocation,” it added.
That position is in stark opposition to existing budget proposals: The European Commission suggested cutting cohesion funding by 10 percent in 2021-2027 compared to the 2014-2020 period, while last year the Finnish presidency of the Council of the EU proposed an even larger reduction of 12 percent.
Leaders from Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Spain attended the gathering, which was hosted by Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa. Officials from Bulgaria, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia were also present.
In their declaration, countries agreed that proposed new budget programs should not come at the cost of cohesion funding.
New budget lines including plans for a eurozone pot and a new Just Transition Fund for decarbonization are “relevant to pursue specific goals, additional to those of Cohesion Policy,” the group wrote.
“Their functioning must be consistent with keeping the level playing-field within the Union and avoid depending existing imbalances. Their funding should come on top of the Commission’s proposal and not be made at the expense of Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy,” the officials added.
The Friends of Cohesion group also made detailed requests regarding the structure of cohesion policy under the 2021-2027 budget, calling for co-financing to be kept at current rates and pre-financing to be “maintained at sufficiently high levels.”
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, attended the session but did not sign up to the declaration.
Italian Minister of European Affairs Vincenzo Amendola similarly took part in the meeting but did not formally support the declaration.