Friends of Cohesion Meet in Portugal to Define Their Positions

By 1 February 2020

ZAGREB, February 1, 2020 - At the summit in Beja on Saturday, the leaders of the Friends of Cohesion group will define their positions on cohesion policy that is important for all, and especially for those European regions that are yet to catch up with those most developed, the Croatian and Portuguese prime ministers said in this Portuguese city.

"Our task today is to define our positions ... on the so-called traditional policies, and those are, first of all, cohesion policy as well as agricultural policy," Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said at a joint press conference with his Portuguese counterpart Antonio Costa.

"Cohesion policy is the redistributive strength of the European budget that EU citizens need, regardless of where they live, and especially in those regions of our member states where we still strive to reach the development level of the most developed regions in Europe or those of average development," Plenković said.

Costa said that Portugal and Croatia have different experiences in the EU, but that there are also common aspects such as cohesion. Both countries are interested in getting adequate funding from the EU budget in the next seven years.

"Our message regarding cohesion is clear. We want to make it clear that Europe is one and united in its interests. It is important to us that Britain has left, but it is even more important that Europe should stay coherent," Costa said.

Today's meeting of the informal group Friends of Cohesion is important ahead of an extraordinary meeting of the European Council on February 20, which was called by European Council President Charles Michel in an effort to reach a compromise between the Friends of Cohesion and the countries that seek to reduce the EU budget and direct most of the reduced budget at new priorities, such as climate change, at the expense of cohesion and agricultural policies.

The new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) will largely define what the EU will be like in the next ten years or so. The EU member states are divided over the MFF, the first without the United Kingdom which left the European Union on January 31 at midnight Central European Time.

Cohesion policy is an inseparable part of the single market and concerns all EU member states, Costa said, recalling that cohesion is important for all member states because they have all used these funds.

"It's no coincidence that the Friends of Cohesion have gathered together 17 countries, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, which is a real proof of how important this policy is. It enables every village, every town and every citizen to deal with their problems and get closer to the European level standard," Costa said.

He added that it would be bad for the EU if these funds were cut in favour of some other policies.

"Of course, we need a compromise. We have the position of the European Commission, Parliament and Council and we need to bring them closer and reach a final agreement," Costa said.

Plenković reiterated that Croatia would be pleased if this agreement was reached during its presidency of the Council of the EU, but noted that it wanted it to be a good agreement. He said that the agreement should be reached this year.

Plenković used his working visit to Portugal to meet with Costa. They concluded that the two countries had very good and friendly relations.

Both countries are interested in strengthening their trade, which reached about €115 million last year.

"We think we should get both Croatian and Portuguese companies more interested in investing and cooperating. I am particularly glad that we are seeing a growing number of Portuguese tourists," Plenković said.

More news about relations between Croatia and Portugal can be found in the Politics section.