MEPs hope to reduce EU budget cuts for Portugal

Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa with the European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu (L) at Sao Bento Palace in Lisbon on1 December 2017. [EPA-EFE/MIGUEL A. LOPES]

The financial package outlined for Portugal in the next EU budget could still be improved, Portuguese MEPs José Manuel Fernandes and Pedro Silva Pereira have said, noting the urgency of concluding negotiations before next May’s European elections. EURACTIV.com’s media partner Lusa reports.

With the negotiations for the next EU budget going on ‘behind closed doors’, the 2021-2027 EU budget should be discussed at the EU December summit – amid expectations that planned cuts for spending in Portugal can be, in part at least, mitigated.

“I am confident. Even so, the package that is proposed, at current prices, is €33 billion, which is a lot of money. Our criticism is that there is a 10% cut compared to the current package and we want to improve that. I have been part of these negotiations for more than two years and the truth is that if they had told me two years ago that this was the end result, I would have said ‘let’s close the deal’,” Fernandes, a centre-right MEP, confessed.

Fernandes, the only Portuguese MEP to be involved in negotiating the EU’s 2021-27 budget, believes there is “room to improve” Portugal’s financial package.

“The Cohesion Fund has been cut by about 40% and this fund exists for the poorest countries, for those that have less than 90% of Gross National Product per capita. It is unacceptable that the fund that helps the poorer regions be the one that is cut the most. If we can improve the package of the Cohesion fund, we can achieve a fairer allocation,” he said.

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Pereira also pointed out that the Parliament’s position is “very favourable” to Portugal’s aims, as MEPs have called for “a reinforcement of the appropriations for cohesion and for the Common Agricultural Policy in a direction that converges with the interests of Portugal.”

It is important for Portugal that, as requested by European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, negotiations should be closed before the end of the mandate.

“I think it is still possible and desirable that the negotiations can be concluded before the European elections, because I see no reason to think that the result available after the next European elections will be more favourable to Portuguese interests,” said the Socialist Party MEP.

The European Commission’s proposal for 2021-2027 has earmarked around €21.2 billion for Portugal under the Cohesion Policy, a cut of 7% compared to the current framework, while for the Common Agricultural Policy the EU executive has offered €7.6 billion at current prices, down from €8.1 billion in the previous budget.

This proposal includes a slight increase in direct payments and cuts in rural development: at current prices, for the MFF 2021-2027, a sum of €4.2 billion has been earmarked for the first pillar (direct payments to farmers) and €3.4 billion in the second (rural development).

The cuts included in the Commission proposal also affect the fisheries sector, with Portugal receiving €378.5 million, €14 million less than in the current budget.

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