PM hails importance of EU cohesion policy at Portugal summit

The PM said that the solidarity and unity of the Friends of Cohesion Group were a very good forecast of the upcoming budget negotiations. Radek Pietruszka/PAP

Taking part in a summit of the informal Friends of Cohesion Group in the Portuguese city of Beja on Saturday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that cohesion policy should be protected in upcoming EU budget talks, ahead of other spending.

The summit, of 17 countries seeking to retain the current shape of cohesion policy spending in the next budgetary cycle, was attended by representatives of: the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Romania. It was devoted to working out a common group position on the shape of the 2021-2027 EU budget.

Speaking after the talks, PM Morawiecki said it is necessary to oppose growth in spending on Brussels bureaucracy at an upcoming EU Council meeting concerning the EU budget, scheduled for February 20, in favour of cohesion policy spending, which he described as an "absolute foundation" of the EU. He also said growth should be opposed in EU expenditures of defence policy if it meant a weakening of cohesion policy.

"Of course Poland very strongly underlines that defence is important, but at the same time we indicate to our partners in the European Union, who are also in the great majority NATO members, that we primarily have an obligation to spend 2 percent of GDP on defence policy. And Poland fulfills that aim with a surplus while our partners also from the European Union, do not so much," Morawiecki said.

The PM added that the solidarity and unity of the Friends of Cohesion Group were a very good forecast of the upcoming budget negotiations, stating: "It is enough to read the declaration that 17 states have signed, and not only countries of Eastern Europe."

Morawiecki said that budget negotiations would be difficult due to Brexit and the absence of the UK's contribution. "Great Britain was a net payer to the European Union budget in connection with which those EUR 60 billion will not be in the 2021-2027 budget," he said. "But we will defend our interests very strongly and I am convinced that our ultimate goal will be a great success, which will probably end the budget negotiations sometime after 10-12 months."

On the sidelines of the summit, Morawiecki also met with his Portuguese counterpart, PM Antonio Costa. The two PMs were expected to discuss bilateral relations and key EU issues. Portugal will take over the rotating presidency of the EU Council in January 2021.