Magazine article Management Today

All Is Fair in the Fight for Funds

Magazine article Management Today

All Is Fair in the Fight for Funds

Article excerpt

Arm-twisting and acrimony accompany the share-out of Euro-rewards. Peter Wilsher

In the US it is called 'pork barreling'. Whatever other high political aims they may be engaged in promoting, senators and congressmen all recognise that they must spend a large part of their time making sure that a fair-and preferably rather more than a fair-share of federally-funded activity flows to whatever state or district they happen to represent. It is the opposite of Nimbyism - everybody seeks to fructify their own backyard.

In Europe, the process works rather differently. While the Parliament in Strasbourg remains in its present rather embryonic state, the votes of its individual members do not have quite the same direct trading value as their Washington opposite numbers. But exactly the same "national interest' pressures are there, hidden away in the fine-tuning of the Commission's agenda and the opaque manoeuvres preceding each decision that emerges from the Council of Ministers.

This summer, there are at least two such epic struggles going on behind the overtly tranquil Brussels facade. Both throw interesting light on the kind of forces whose interplay tends to determine the share-out of Euro-rewards.

The first goodie-bag goes under the name of the Trans European Networks plan. Though hardly the subject of daily conversation in Hull and Halesowen, it is Brussels's biggest single project since the officially recognised 'completion' of the single market and so far the only clear initiative to have come out of the Commission's White Paper on growth and jobs that was agreed last December. It embraces roads, railways, telecommunication links and the transmission and distribution of energy. The figure for the total ultimate bill has been pencilled in at 400 billion ecus - something over 300 pounds billion. Naturally the plans have been drown up so that every member country has at least some interest in their going ahead. But Britain's involvement is fairly peripheral. Apart from a contribution to the cost of the hoped-for London-Paris Brussels-Amsterdam high-speed rail service it revolves mainly round

another railway, in this case linking Cork and Dublin directly with Belfast, Larne and Stranraer.

The real meat, though, is to be found much further east. The biggest planned investments are all focused on improving transport and communications, either with the ex-Soviet Union and its former satellite empire, or with Turkey and beyond it, the Middle East. The overarching idea is to repair the legacy of the Cold War years, when Europe's infrastructural improvement was almost entirely concentrated on North-South connections. …

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