November 16, 2006
“The Budget of the European Union – Prospects for South East Europe ”
For the future of the European Union the co-operation of the countries of the Danube region is of crucial importance, and during this process a significant mediating role can be attributed to Hungary.
The inter-institutional agreement on the budget of the European Union was signed on May 17, 2006 . The financial perspective of the document having definite impact on the prospects of the Balkan region has been preceded by long negotiation talks. Following parliamentary discussion and the Austrian presidency the total budgetary basis of 862 billion Euro has increased to some extent and was supplemented by a credit of the European Investment Bank amounting to 2.5 billion Euro for financing primarily large scale trans-European projects and R&D projects. Consequently, Hungary can count on an appropriation amounting to 33,5 billion Euro in the following two years – subsidies for agricultural and rural development included.
After having fixed the appropriation basis of the financial perspective of the Union , the potential priorities of foreign affairs with the EU can be brought again to the foreground. Under the heading “EU as a global partner” of the budgetary plan for the following seven years appropriations amounts to 50 billion Euros, and it is of crucial importance that the Balkan countries waiting for accession should plead for their own cause adequately.
We must be aware of the fact that the prospective enlargement process of the EU has brought about a crisis in Europe , which is not so much of economic but rather political nature, as well as connected to public communication. The accession-criteria-based system has been overshadowed by the hardly definable question on the „absorption capacity” of the Union , and this issue especially when coupled with the discussion of the constitution of the EU does not favour the Balkan countries. The initiative to integrate the region into the European Union does not enjoy any priority, something that is made clear when looking at the budgetary appropriations. Pre-accession countries ( Croatia and Macedonia ) and potential accession countries ( Serbia , Montenegro , Kosovo , Bosnia and Herzegovina , and Albania ) can count on a total of 600 million Euros from the annual budget, an amount which is far beyond the appropriations for ACP-countries. Based on the appropriations of the budget it can be measured that the integration of the region is not treated with priority by the European Union. The accession countries (Croatia and Macedonia) and the “potential accession countries” (Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania) can count on an amount of 600 million Euro form the annual budget, which is far less than attributed for ACP-countries. This sum can be used for the introduction of such political and economic procedures and the implementation of the institutional system that are a prerequisite for cooperation with EU-countries.
The EU supports currently the development of the pre-accession countries Bulgaria and Romania with the help of PHARE, ISPA and SAPARD programmes amounting to 1.5 billion Euro, which compared to the 5 billion euro appropriations for Hungary makes it very clear what benefits it can bring to be as a member of the EU situated on the “main road”. The long-term financial perspective of the EU has appropriations amounting to 2.2 billion euro in 2007 for Romania ; in 2008 this sum will increase to 3.7 billion and in 2009 to 4.5 billion. Bulgaria on the other hand can count on a gradually increasing appropriation framework amounting to 1-1.5 billion in the following years. There are 5 components of the support system of the EU: economic transformation and implementation of institutional building (1), regional and along-border cooperation (2), regional development (3), human resources development (4), and projects for regional development (5). It lies equally in Hungary ’s main interest to take part in these projects – firstly by becoming aware of the possibilities of along-border cooperation.
As a consequence we can conclude by saying that there is great need for such discussions where clear cut aims can be set and the possibilities and means at hand can be looked upon thoroughly. It is one of our most important tasks to make the whole of society aware of the chances underlying our relations with the countries of the Balkan region und to point the attention of the actors on the political scene to the region.