Slovenia not to soften its position on cohesion, says Šarec


Šarec discussed the issue with EU Council President Charles Michel for about an hour and a quarter. He was happy with the meeting and said Michel understood Slovenia's position.

"We have set out our position that we disagree with the cut as proposed, that cohesion is of exceptional importance to us and that we will insist on the position in the negotiations on the European Council," he said.

Šarec said that Michel understood that the Finnish proposal was not good for Slovenia. "In that sense it needs to be told that he also understood that Slovenia cannot yield at the expense of its outcome."

Šarec did not want to talk about figures lest he would disclose Slovenia's positions, but he repeated several times the goal was for Slovenia not to lose as much as planned under the Finnish proposal.

"This is our main task at hand. Charles Michel understood that very well. Slovenia has always been constructive on all issues and we expect to have something in return."

Michel, the former Belgian prime minister, comes from the liberal group of parties in the EU like Šarec.

Šarec already described the Finnish proposal as very bad for Slovenia back in December when he said it would cut Slovenia's cohesion funds by 28% compared to the current period.

The outgoing prime minister conceded that Slovenia would get less cohesion funds because it has reduced its development gap, but added that the drastic cut envisaged under the Finnish proposal was unacceptable.

"We are also being hurt by the new statistics because the negotiations were not completed on time."

While the European Commission based its proposal of the 2021-2027 budget on statistical data for the period between 2014 and 2016 the then Finnish presidency of the EU calculated cohesion envelopes on the basis of data for 2015-2017.

Since Slovenia's GDP per capita increased in the meantime the country is eligible for much less funding under the valid rules.

Šarec said the level of development was not problematic in the case of West Slovenia, one of Slovenia's two cohesion regions, because it includes the capital which is more developed than other parts of the region.

"Statistics is one thing and the situation on the ground quite anther (…) we know the state on the ground so we must fight to prevent an excessive reduction in funds."

Net contributors to the EU budget have been insisting on reducing the budget for the seven-year period to 1% of the gross national income (GNI), while the net recipients want it to reach at least 1.11% of GNI as proposed by the European Commission in May 2018.

The European Parliament is advocating an even larger budget, equalling to 1.3% of the EU's GNI.

Asked about the manoeuvring room for compromise, Šarec said a compromise would have to be found and that that net contributors too should realise the budget cut they are proposing could not affect the EU's development well giving the tasks planned. "You cannot do more with less," he said.

Michel's press service would not comment on the meeting with Šarec saying they were not communicating after each meeting. Michel will meet 16 EU leaders by Monday before putting forward a compromise proposal. A dedicated ministerial is to follow on 17 February and special EU summit on 20 February.