Tibor Navracsics – Photo: Facebook

Regional development minister: Central Europe must remain a focus of EU funding

Central Europe must not take a back seat in the distribution of European Union funding, which must be reformed to benefit disadvantaged regions, the economic development minister told a conference on Monday.

The EU is now lagging behind the US, and lacks an independent foreign policy, Tibor Navracsics told the Szazadveg Institute’s Sovereignty conference in Budapest. Its leadership is mishandling challenges and misinterpreting its own role because it plays a political role, he said.

Whereas earlier the EU strove for a solution to disagreements, the European Commission is now pushing political expectations as generally applicable even though most Europeans are against such methods of distribution, he said.

Unless it changes, that approach might push European integration into a deep crisis, Navracsics said.

Since European funding has been withheld, closing the developmental gap between regions is also lagging, he said. Keeping the deadlines for the reconstruction funding has now become impossible, he added.

“Brussels can only blame itself for that, as things took a turn for the worse when they started a political game.”

Although the cohesion gap appears to be closing in the EU, central European capitals are driving development in the region, he said. Withholding EU funding harms rural areas the most. Development funding should be channelled there, tailored to the needs of the recipients, he added.

Hungary is mulling a revamping of its regional development categories to accommodate those needs, he said.

Meanwhile, the EU should unify its cohesion policy to iron out discrepancies in funding, he said. Western European bidders are now receiving disproportionately more scientific and R+D funding than central European ones, he said.

Navracsics also rejected that “southern European states, which have fallen behind due to the coronavirus pandemic, should be supported in catching up to the detriment of central Europe”.

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