Eastern Partnership : Question Marks Hang over Initiative's Financing
A lot of uncertainty still surrounds the financial aspects of the European Commission's recent Eastern Partnership initiative, issued on 3 December, said Eneko Landaburu, director-general of DG Relex. Addressing members of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, on 20 January, Landaburu admitted that at this stage, just a few weeks after the Eastern Partnership proposal was put forward, it is "very difficult to know if the member states will agree on the envisaged financial allocations". The bone of contention is the 350 million of extra resources to be allocated from the margin of Heading 4 of the EU budget, Landaburu explained, expressing hope that any disagreements between member states would be resolved in the course of the forthcoming discussions, thus enabling the proposal to be finally approved by the European Council of 19-20 March and launched formally at the special summit, scheduled for 7 May in Prague.
Referring to reservations signalled by the member states, Landaburu strongly rejected a claim that the extra resources for the Eastern Partnership will be earmarked at the expense of other areas. "We are not suggesting [in our proposal] that money will be taken away from other areas," Landaburu said. "It is equally urgent that we make progress in other initiatives and projects, too," he added.
In its communication, the Commission proposed to earmark, in addition to resources already planned, 600 million to finance the Eastern Partnership for 2010-2013. More than half of this amount (350 million) is due to be allocated from the margin of Heading 4, which amounts in total to 998 million. Commenting on the Commission's plans, some countries (Greece, Bulgaria and Hungary) have expressed concerns that such a transfer of money would mean "less flexibility for the financing of other issues," such as projects within the Back Sea Synergy. "There is a large number of other issues financed by resources from Heading 4, which require our action," said Landaburu. …