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Von der Leyen backs linking EU funding to reforms

Image: European Union

Commission president reportedly says requirement could be adopted for EU cohesion funding

The president of the European Commission has said she is keen on making eligibility for certain EU funding schemes dependent on member states undertaking national economic reforms, to improve Europe’s global competitiveness.

Ursula von der Leyen backed such a move in an interview with the Financial Times newspaper published on 21 May, ahead of a debate among candidates to claim the next five-year presidency term that was being co-hosted by the paper later the same day.

She reportedly said she “sees the advantages” in imposing conditions on hundreds of billions of euros of EU funding, including cohesion funds, which support research and innovation among other activities.

This would be based on the precedent of the EU’s €800 billion fund for supporting recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Through joint borrowing and loans, the EU allocated its member states enormous sums to use for activities including R&I, dependent on them achieving various reforms.

“[That] combination of reform and investment…led to growth”, she reportedly said. “And you see it now in the successful economic development that you have in Italy, Greece and Portugal.

“So we should learn lessons. I’m open to that discussion because I see that the impact of our investment has been strong.”

Her remarks come ahead of the election for the European Parliament on 6-9 June, after which the heads of EU member states will nominate a Commission president for the new MEPs to consider approving.

They also come as EU politicians and experts have been expressing their views on how the EU can boost its economic competitiveness, to keep pace with the United States and China.