Project funding could be cut as EU battles to balance books

Project funding could be cut as EU battles to balance books
By Damon Embling
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As EU tackles a shrinking budget, and increased commitments, cohesion funds for development projects could be slashed


Discovering the Belgian capital by river cruise - many tourists do it each year. A new terminal has been inaugurated at the port of Brussels, designed to handle 35,000 passengers by 2030 and generate an annual turnover of five million euros.

Half of the cash to make it happen came from European Regional Development Funds.

"Europe is helping us to better integrate the port in the city, while also improving the economic impact for the city. In fact, thanks to these investments we will definitely put Brussels on the map of river tourism in Belgium," said Philippe Matthis, General Director, Port of Brussels, told Euronews. 

But development projects may not get funding in the future EU budget.

With Brexit leaving a 13 billion euro hole per year, many fear cuts in cohesion spending which help to even out progress across countries.

Right now, the cohesion programme represents about a third of the EU budget. Most funding goes to eastern, former Soviet bloc countries. But southern countries like Spain and Italy are demanding cash to tackle chronic unemployment.

"Regional disparities have not stopped, on the contrary, in some areas of Europe they are growing, especially in southern Europe and in parts of Western Europe," said Francesco Molica, Founder of the Cohesion Policy Observatory. 

Another hotly-debated issue is whether EU cohesion funds should be linked to countries respecting the rule of law - in the wake of concerns expressed about conditions in Hungary and Poland.

"Actually EU funds benefit not only the government but they benefit also the citizens all together and they are also proof that Europe is acting for these countries. So it is also a tool to counter Eurosceptisism," said Raphael Hanoteaux, Policy Officer at BankWatch.

Reporting from Brussels, Euronews' Elena Cavallone said: "Tough negotiations are also expected between member states about the idea of increasing their own contribution to the next EU budget. With defence and migration at the top of the priority list, the 27 might need to dip into their pockets if they want to keep the same level of cohesion spending."

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