The country that receives the most financial aid from Brussels is now planning to tell others how best to spend it.
Spain has announced that it wants to advise Poland on the use of EU money for infrastructure projects. Spanish infrastructure minister Magdalena Alvarez said that her country could become a "model" for new member states, according to German daily
Handelsblatt. Spain receives large amounts of money from the EU for infrastructure - last year and the year before it received a net sum of €8 billion ($10.4 billion), more than any other member state. However, the funds are not bottomless and with the entry of 10, generally poor, new member states into the EU last May, Spain's happy turn with the money is slowly running out. Alvarez's gesture comes via pressure from the Spanish construction industry, according to
Handelsblatt. With structural funds flowing to the member states in central and east Europe, Spanish industry wants to conquer new markets. Spanish construction firms have strongly profited from Brussels money. "Through its large profits it [the industry] now accounts for three quarters of growth. Without EU subsidies, things would be quite gloomy," said Manuel Romera, a real estate expert, quoted by the newspaper. For its part the Spanish government wants a long phasing out of the structural funds - in 2015, and not in 2007 as is planned. In the multi-annual EU budget talks, which sets the budget for 2007-2013, Spain is pushing for the budget ceiling to be set at 1.24 percent of GDP - which could allow such a long phasing out. However, Germany, which pays the most into EU coffers, wants the ceiling set at 1 percent of GDP.