Agriculture in Milikowice, Lower Silesia, Poland / Flickr / Tomasz Lewicki / CC BY-SA 2.0

The European Commission may soon not lend a helping hand to Poland while accounting for EU funds. It may also not be as understanding as before either. Part of the money earmarked for Poland may be depleted for Poland’s little or non-existent solidarity with other EU states over the migration crisis. Black clouds may hang also over cohesion policy in the next European budget.

With regards to possible financial threats to Poland, it may be expected that there will be less money for the country in the current EU budget. A few months ago, German and Austrian politicians threatened countries unwilling to share the immigration burden by suspending the funding.

Unused funds to be taken away?

According to diplomats and officials working in Brussels, such threats are just a prelude to bigger action to come.

It turns out that the Western European countries, which agree to take in refugees, want to support these refugees with EU money, namely from the cohesion policy budget, of which Poland is indeed the biggest beneficiary.

Money that has already been allocated to Poland cannot be taken away, but unused funds can. So far the Commission has helped countries to make up arrears, but now there may be no more preferential treatment.

A review of the EU budget and expenditure has been announced for the upcoming year.

The Polish member of the European Parliament (MEP), Jan Olbrycht from the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), who will take part in the review process on the part of the European Parliament, expects that countries which do not spend funds in time will lose this money. (audio in Polish)

“I expect that the discussion over the second part of the financial perspective will address effectivity and bigger discipline. It is not about taking away money. European bankers prefer to call it ‘funds expiration.’ If countries have not spent money in time or spent it against the rules, they can expect that the funds they received will expire,” Olbrycht told Polskie Radio.

Therefore the first threat Poland is facing is the loss of unused money. Poland can do its best and try to use the funds in time. But soon Poland may also have to defend funds for agriculture.

Polish Radio has learnt unofficially that part of the MEPs from the centre-left Socialist & Democrats (S&D) group want to decrease direct subsidies for agricultural producers in countries which do not want to take in refugees and transfer the money to the migration funds.

Achieving this goal will not be easy and may even lead to huge quarrelling in Parliament, but such ideas can be implemented and they are dangerous for Poland.

More support for countries struggling with crisis

There is also bad news for Poland regarding the next 7-year EU budget. There is a preliminary document being prepared by the Committee of the Regions. It is entitled “The future of the cohesion policy.” This regional policy is aimed at improving the economic well-being of regions and avoiding regional disparities between West and East Europe.

The document in case states that the regional policy should be used to help the EU to recover from the financial crisis. It is directly stated that some regions, e.g. in Spain, which have been severely hit by the crisis, do not receive any additional funds and there are regions which are not struggling with the crisis and get high financial support.

And here the report mentions Poland as the largest beneficiary of the cohesion policy. The document suggests that more money should be allocated to the southern countries to eliminate the negative effects of the crisis. The representatives of Poland’s regions do not agree with such suggestions.

The marshal of Poland’s Podkarpackie province, Wladyslaw Ortyl, who was engaged in the compilation of document, explained the changes. (audio in Polish)

“Such proposals raise strong opposition. We believe that Poland, including our region, has not yet managed take advantage of the benefits of the cohesion policy. We will continue to present our opinion that the cohesion policy should concern all of Europe and especially regions which are underdeveloped, e.g. the Podkarpacie province,” Ortyl said.

Act before it is too late

The document is being prepared by the Committee of the Regions. Obviously the document itself will not make Brussels stop the money flows.

But everyone knows that such “harmless” documents could trigger a snowball effect – once something is included in a EU document, it is very difficult to withdraw it. It is copied and pasted into other documents until it is engraved in the consciousness of Europeans.

Therefore, each member state reacts to even tiny initial projects to prevent bigger troubles.

The Committee of the Regions is not the only player in the game about EU funds, but its opinion is important, said Janusz Lewandowski, former EU Commissioner for financial programming and budget. (audio in Polish)

“The Committee of Regions represent regions and not countries. And even in the richer countries there are regions which would like to be subsidized because there are poorer than others, e.g. Brandenburgia which is an ally of the Polish and Bulgarian regions. I used the opinions of the Committee of Regions in the struggle for the EU budget in 2014-2020,” Lewandowski said.

Fight for EU money

If Poland wants to receive more money in the next EU budget, it has to start fighting for it now. The country should try to delete the alarming records before the document gets to the Commission.

No doubt German and Austrian politicians will reiterate their threats – and financial blackmail will return, also during the negotiations on the next EU budget.

  • Authors: Beata Płomecka, Ewa Stankiewicz, Polish Radio

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