Portugal’s efforts to scupper EU funding cuts head for rocks as former commissioner warns Europe “at a fragile moment”

Portugal’s efforts to scupper EU funding cuts head for rocks as former commissioner warns Europe “at a fragile moment”

Portugal’s efforts to block cuts to ‘vital’ EU funding are headed for the rocks this week as Carlos Moedas, former European commissioner for Science and Innovation, warns Europe is at a “fragile moment”.

Talking to journalists ahead of a crunch summit on the next pluriannual budget later this week, Moedas said the European Council’s proposals for the next seven years are “not a good sign for Europe”.

They come in the context of Brexit, and the fact that the UK used to be Europe’s largest ‘net contributor’ after Germany.

‘At risk’ are the so-called ‘cohesion funds’ distributed to ‘poorer countries’, like Portugal, in order to help them catch up with the richer countries.

The dilemma is that poorer countries far outweigh the richer ones. There are 17 ‘cohesion countries’ and only five so-called ‘net payers’ – none of them doing particularly well (economically) these days.

Portuguese PM António Costa has been pulling out all the stops to garner support for a 2021-2027 pluriannual budget that delivers exactly the same kind of funding as the one for 2013-2020, but pundits are not optimistic.

Says Expresso, Costa has until Thursday to “redefine” a strategy capable of countering “cuts that continue to hover over cohesion policies and those for agriculture”.

“Up till now, neither the Friends of Cohesion summit in Beja or pressure in the European Parliament has had the desired effect,” says the paper.

Carlos Moedas’ comments may not help the situation. He has compared the EU’s budgetary proposals with those of the United States – to try and show just how meagre things stand.

“The American State budget represents 20% of American GDP. Europe’s is 1%. The difference is 1-20”, he told negocios online.

In other words, there’s very little money available for Europe, “particularly if we want to have greater ambition in the area of Defence.

“I don’t see how we can do it if we continue to have ambition in the area of Science”, he added… or if Portugal has any kind of “drama with refugees”.

“I don’t see how things will work”, said Moedas. “It’s certainly not auspicious for a good future”.

It was an interview largely taken up with anecdotes of the former politician’s time in Brussels, ahead of the launch of his new book, but it brought out some serious concerns.

He concluded his thoughts on where Europe could be headed, saying there is currently a surge of “populist extremists who believe in a Europe of countries” which, in his opinion, could lead to a future “where there is no European Commission at all”.

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