Leaders of European cities and regions have been promised more decentralised help in combating the effects of the economic crisis.
They were brought together for a two-day summit organised for them in Prague by the Czech presidency. The European Commission pledged to free up earmarked money earlier than budgeted, especially for regions and cities in eastern Europe. Commission president José Manuel Barroso told them: “This year 2009, it will be 11 billion euros of frontloading of structural funds, including regional funds and social funds.” The crisis is exacerbated in the eastern member states that don’t have the euro. This had led to fears, evoked by Hungary at last Sunday’s summit, that a new “iron curtain” was dividing Europe’s rich and poor. Matthias Kollatz-Ahnen, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank also spoke at the summit. He said afterwards: “Those not being in the eurozone are hit harder by comparison to the others, because, beyond the economic difficulties, there is also speculation about the currency and economic difficulties are connected with difficulties coming from banking sector which is very much a foreign banking sector.” An official from the European committee for social and economic affairs said social repercussions of the crisis would become evident in the autumn.