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Regions slam Commission threat to Hungarian funds

The Committee of the Regions has slammed the European Commission’s threat to withdraw €500 million from Hungary’s cohesion funds in 2013.

The Commission has proposed to withdraw the money as a punishment to the Hungarian government, which failed to keep its budget deficit under the EU limit of 3 per cent of GDP (see RET 24 February via link below).

Such a move could affect those parts of the structural funds used for research infrastructure development. About a quarter of the EU’s structural funds for cohesion—€86 billion overall in 2007-13—goes to research and innovation projects.

All political groups at the Committee of the Regions criticised the Commission’s plan in a joint statement on 29 February.

Firstly, withdrawing about a third of Hungary’s structural funds would penalise local funding beneficiaries who have no direct link with their central government’s macro-economic policy, a Committee spokesman says.

“Cohesion funding is the EU’s only long-term strategy for long-term [regional] development. Suspending this funding based on a conjunctural situation is wrong,” he told Research Europe Today.

Secondly, the Committee claims that by using this kind of sanction the Commission is pushing the concept of macro-economic conditionality for cohesion funding in 2014-20. Under a Commission proposal presented last October, a percentage of structural funding would be tied to national economic stability.

“There are enough checks [performed before Structural Funds are distributed] to make sure that investment is effective,” the spokesman says.

Thirdly, the Committee says this cut would not be equitable for different types of funding recipients, as only one type of EU funding would be cut.

“Why should a small innovative business be more affected than, say, a farmer?” the spokesman asks.

The Committee of the Regions is the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives. It includes 344 members from all 27 EU countries.