The plan was revealed on Wednesday by the European Commission. Catering for an enlargement by ten countries (Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, although France favours the inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria as well), it was decided to spend 12.5% of the EU budget on expansion eastwards between 2004 and 2006, but limiting support to the agricultural sector to just 25% of the level of a member state.
Due to the fact that subsidies are introduced gradually, only in 2013 will the new members receive the same level of support as the current 15 member states.
The EU argues that enlargement will change the current setting within the 15. There will be a global reduction in average per capita GDP and various regions will no longer qualify for “Objective One” aid, namely for those regions where wealth is only 75% of the EU average. In Portugal, for example, only one region is classified as being above this figure, namely the region of Lisbon. All the others are below, but with the inclusion of poorer countries, the level of wealth to qualify will also be lowered, meaning that structural funds will be siphoned away from the current 15 members and injected into the new ten, or twelve.
With France jealously guarding its Common Agricultural Policy, which would be strained to the limit if the new members were granted parity status immediately, it is unlikely that cries for more will fall on anything but deaf ears.
As it stands, certain of the new members, such as Poland, have complained bitterly that the funds package offered is most unattractive, representing a mere 2.5% of the GDP of the new members.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru