Poland supports an ambitious EU budget

Poland would like the next EU budget to be more ambitious and is ready to pay more to the European coffers to keep the cohesion policy spending unchanged and to meet new challenges, Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said in an interview with PAP.

The European Commission (EC) has presented a draft EU budget for 2021-2027 with reduced cohesion policy funds. At EUR 64 bln, Poland will remain the biggest beneficiary of EU cohesion spending, but the total cohesion money earmarked for Warsaw is EUR 19.5 bln smaller than in the current budget. Apart from the prosperity criterion, the EC also wants to tie the size of cohesion spending to youth unemployment, low education levels, climate change and taking in migrants.

Additionally, the EC would like to make EU funds payouts dependent on the rule of law in particular member states.

Poland has been at odds with the EC over the country's judiciary reforms that the Commission says undermine the rule of law enshrined in European principles.

"The cohesion fund is an EU success story. Countries benefit from it, they develop faster and this way the whole EU strengthens its economic position. Western countries, which contribute more to the budget, also benefit from those funds," the foreign minister argued, adding that about 70 percent of the funds transferred under the policy return to the net payers' economies.

Poland sees the need to focus more on such new challenges as border protection, security and new technologies, but "this should not be at the expense of the cohesion fund," said Czaputowicz.

"Sometimes Poland is presented as a country that wants a weak EU - it's not true (...). We are in favour of a strong EU, with a serious budget and we are ready to contribute more and we will make the case for it," Minister Czaputowicz stressed.

The minister said Poland did not approve of the EC's policy to channel more cohesion funds to the crisis-stricken southern members. Czaputowicz argued that the aim of the cohesion fund is to raise the level of development of poorer regions, not anti-crisis actions. Despite the crisis, he noted, the southern EU members still enjoyed "much higher living standards compared to the less developed countries in our part of Europe."

"What's more, these economies need reform - I mean a number of southern countries - instead of encouragement to maintain the state of inefficiency," the Polish minister said.