European Commissioner
Image: António Cotrim/ Lusa

Housing finance from Brussels? Where would it end, questions European Commissioner

Short shrift PM’s push for EU housing support  

Portugal’s European commissioner for cohesion policy and reform Elisa Ferreira has stressed how difficult it is, in the current context, to consider the channelling of new funds into the housing crisis.

At a point when the European Commission has said it is time to look to expansion of the bloc to over 30 members  – implying the adhesion of countries like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, sooner rather than later – Ms Ferreira intimated that this will require “radical change”, not least in the distribution of structural funds.

By this, she meant funds would have to be spread further: thus what many saw as the PM’s plea for a solution to Portugal’s housing crisis, seems to have fallen on stony ground.

“In the future” (perhaps) “they could be cohesion funds for this objective”, Elisa Ferreira conceded, but this would have to be seen as a long-term vision, not something for immediate problems.

Housing is a bottomless pit”, she said during an interview organised by the Journalists’ Club, in partnership with Lusa today. “Where are we going to end if we finance housing? It doesn’t mean that we can’t do it, but we have to work very hard to ensure that, without the logic of a rebalancing fund, we don’t waste precious money. (…) It’s important not to create an instrument that is water in the desert.” 

Says Lusa, “Elisa Ferreira argued that Portugal needs to reflect on the existing imbalances, starting with land management, which has an impact on housing”.

In other words, in the most diplomatic manner possible, Elisa Ferreira was answering that famous letter sent to the European Commission – widely pilloried by opposition parties in Portugal for trying to offload a problem that the government has created itself by ‘looking the other way’ for far too long.

Meantime, the accession of other countries – most notably Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and the Western Balkans – has become a lot more than an aspiration.

In her State of the Union address earlier this week, European Commissioner Ursula Von der Leyen stressed that the European Union must “immediately prepare for radical changes needed for Ukraine and other countries to become members of the bloc. (…) We cannot afford to leave our fellow Europeans behind”, she insisted, adding that euro MPs need to start addressing the “practical questions about how a Union of over 30 countries will work in practice”.

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