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article imagePoorer EU states could spend more on post-Brexit budget: Slovak PM

By AFP     Nov 29, 2018 in World

Slovakia's prime minister said on Thursday that poorer EU members were willing to increase their contributions to the bloc's post-Brexit budget to keep development and agricultural spending at current levels.

Development or cohesion policy aims to bring economic conditions in the EU's traditionally poorer southern and eastern countries up to the higher western levels.

But on May 2 the Commission proposed a seven-percent cut to cohesion funds in a 1.279 trillion euro budget to help make up for the loss of Britain's contribution after Brexit in March 2019.

Funds for agriculture, which with development funds account for the biggest share of the budget, are slated for a five-percent cut.

"We are willing to contribute more to the budget because we think that the EU should continue financing its priorities at the same volume as up to now," Premier Peter Pellegrini said in Bratislava following talks by 15 mostly poorer EU members forming the so-called Friends of Cohesion group.

Pellegrini did not go into detail regarding sums, but suggested that the EU's remaining 27 members should fill the spending gap left by Brexit.

Over half the EU's members participated in the Bratislava talks on Thursday which come just two weeks ahead of the December 13-14 European Council summit focused on the future budget.

"Cohesion policy and Common Agricultural Policy should be simplified, effective and sufficiently flexible for member states," the Friends of Cohesion group said in a statement.

"Both policies should be financed at the level of MFF (Multiannual Financial Framework) 2014-2020," the statement added, in reference to the European Commission's draft post-Brexit budget for 2021-2027.

Signatories to Thursday's statement include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary and Poland as well as eurozone members Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia.

"We want the budget as it is today," Pellegrini insisted, but also conceded that "if the budget is to be reduced, then we ask for more flexibility" in spending choices.

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