Almost simultaneously, the European Commission and Poland, the country currently holding the EU's rotating presidency, published similar papers highlighting the benefits of cohesion policy for Europe's economic growth.

The Commission paper appeared on 29 June as part of a campaign reportedly inspired by the institution's president, José Manuel Barroso.

Two documents were published, the first confronting 'EU budget myths' and the second lauding the EU budget's added value.

The Commission argues that cohesion policy over the 2000-2006 period resulted in a return of €2.1 for each euro invested. By 2020, the return is estimated at €4.2 per euro invested.

According to the EU executive, cohesion policy had a direct impact on employment, with 5.6 million jobs created by 2009 as a result of regional funds disbursed between 2000 and 2006.

On average, this represents 560,000 more jobs per year than without cohesion policy, the document claims.

Benefits of regional funding for 'old' Europe

The Commission is seemingly seeking to convey the message that cohesion policy is good not only for the impoverished newer member states of Central and Eastern Europe, but also for the older members in the West.

By 2020, Brussels estimates that the cumulative net effect on GDP growth will amount to 4% on average in the EU and to 3.3% in the "older" EU-15 countries.

For its part, the Polish paper appeared in the form of a glossy 111-page brochure, entitled 'Evaluation of benefits gained by EU-15 states as a result of the implementation of cohesion policy in Poland'.

The brochure was distributed on 2 July to 60 Brussels journalists who were invited on a press trip to Poland by the country's regional development minister, Elżbieta Bieńkowska.

The Polish paper argues that for every euro spent on cohesion policy in Poland, the EU-15 countries received a return of 36 eurocents in the form of additional exports of goods and services. For Germany, the return is estimated to be 72 eurocents as a result of "additional export contracts".

Increased demand in Poland significantly boosts the exports of foreign entities, and therefore all parties benefit from the policy, the document reads.

Bieńkowska was outspoken in saying she was "afraid" that France's push to preserve farm subsidies and Britain's refusal to relinquish its hard-won rebate could result in reduced funding for the EU's cohesion policy.

When asked to explain where the estimates came from, she referenced the report's authors at the Institute of Structural Research in Warsaw.