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Europe

New Front in EU Budget Battle

A row is brewing over the distribution of funds to the EU’s poorer regions, threatening to further hinder attempts at agreement over the already thorny issue of the EU budget from 2007-2013.

The row threatens to pit new member states against some of the poorer, mainly southern European "old member states." EU sources say that Spain has requested key changes to a draft working document on the budget to remove specific references to "solidarity" and the "particular needs" of the EU’s new member states when handing out EU cash to poorer regions. The issue is due to be debated in more depth by EU leaders during their summit on Dec. 16 and 17. The text says: "In an enlarged union, the main effort in the context of structural policy should be directed towards reducing the disparities in development levels, with special attention to the least prosperous parts of the union." But a previous draft of the document said, "solidarity should be the guiding principle for the distribution of cohesion funds in the enlarged union … in this respect, the particular needs of new member states … is acknowledged." Diplomats indicated that Spain was afraid that such a direct reference to the new member states could result in less funding for its own poor regions. The document also sets the ambitious aim of reaching "political agreement by June 2005." (EUobserver.com)

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