More EU funds for reforms in the Western Balkans

European Commission; Photo: Pixabay

BRUSSELS – The first seven-year European Union budget after the UK leaves the membership will be slightly larger than the previous one, but Britain’s exit as one of the largest payments in the budget will be through a five-point decrease in cohesion and agricultural funds will be felt significantly, according to Zagreb’s Večernji list.

Among the great news, Večernji list writes, about which could be difficult political struggles among member states, it strengthens the connection between the spending of European money and the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary of the Member States in which money is spent. In other words, more than ever before, the European Commission wants all Member States to order, and above all Poland and Hungary, which have been warned for a long time, of sliding into a violation of the rule of law, that violation of the European values can cost them a lot.

The proposal of the multi-annual financial framework (MFF), published by the European Commission yesterday in Brussels, envisages that the total commitments of the European budget from 2021 to 2027 amount to 1.135 billion euros, expressed in 2018 prices, or 1.279 billion euros, at current prices which take into account inflation.

This is, as it is stated, equivalent to 1.1 percent of the gross national income of 27 EU member states.

Current MFFs for the period 2014-2020 amounts to € 1.087 billion in commitments, which suggests that the European budget will grow even after Bregzit, despite the exit of a rich member state which is paying 12 billion euros annually.

This would be achieved with the proposed new revenues to the European budget from the taxation of digital services, plastic waste and carbon dioxide emissions.

According to the proposal of a new mechanism which connects the spending of money from EU funds with the rule of law, the Commission could at any time after 2021 propose to reduce the money from funds for a member state in proportion to the nature and severity of the violation of the rule of law.

The decision itself would be adopted by the Council of the EU, therefore by the Member States, but would be voted by a reverse qualified majority, in which the Commission proposal passes unless a qualified majority voting against it is collected, writes Večernji.

Although the EU budget for a seven-year period does not predict any single euro for new members, European Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger told Tanjug yesterday that there is a mechanism to change this if, in the period from 2021 to 2027, a new member enters into Union.

“The proposal of the new financial framework does not foresee a budget for a potential new member, but in case a new member appears, there are funding instruments provided for in the EU Treaty,” Oettinger said.

EU budgetary affairs commissioner replied to Tanjug’s question whether the draft of the new EU budget framework for the period 2021-2027, presented today in Brussels, envisages funds for possible new members and the EU enlargement, that it is early for such decisions, but that the EU has a solution when it comes to fulfillment of the conditions for joining a new member.

“This multiannual financial framework does not foresee a single euro for a potential new member, but there are regulations from the EU Treaty that have been used in the case of Croatia. When it comes to a new entry, and on the basis of proven indicators, we will consider the contributions of all member states to enable the new member to participate in existing EU programs,” said Oettinger.

At the same time, he stressed that the draft of the new EU budget envisages a significant increase in funds planned for pre-accession assistance to the Western Balkans.

“We have increased the funds from the budget generally intended for the area of foreign affairs and neighbourhood. This means that the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance has significantly increased. This is especially important because it comes on the eve of the EU Western Balkans summit in Sofia. With that money, we will bring candidates from the Western Balkans to the EU,” Oettinger said.

The European Commission presented the draft of the new EU budget for the period from 2021 to 2027. The EU Enlargement Strategy, also proposed by the Junker Commission, has led to the possibility of Serbia and Montenegro entering the EU at the earliest in 2025.

Although it was pointed out that the multiannual financial framework did not envisage funds for the new member states, more funds will be available to the Western Balkan countries than in the previous EU budget, pointed out Maja Kocijančič spokesperson for the EU, for the  European Western Balkans, adding that this is foreseen in the strategy for the Western Balkans as a timely preparation for new accession.

“There is no reason for disappointment, these are positive news, more funds are allocated, to support reforms in the Western Balkans, with the necessary flexibility to adapt,” Kocijančič says.