The FINANCIAL -- Leaders of four
central European states on Friday singled out the European Union's
cohesion policy as a key investment tool alongside structural reforms to
"Territorial, economic and social cohesion of the EU is currently challenged due to different levels of growth and competitiveness across the union," the Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Slovak prime ministers said in a letter to top EU officials.
Cohesion policy "should be considered as a key investment tool (to boost competitiveness) while driving further economic convergence within the EU," they said, stressing its role in less developed regions.
The leaders insisted that cohesion policy -- designed to level out economic differences between richer and poorer areas of the EU -- "should not become a victim of possible cuts" in the EU's financial framework for 2014-2020.
"We are not able to ensure growth without a policy removing regional differences," Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico told reporters in Prague after meeting heads of three other ex-communist 2004 EU entrants, also known as the Visegrad Four group.
Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he would hand over the letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Friday's Euro 2012 face off between Germany and Greece in the Polish Baltic port city of Gdansk.
At an EU summit in Brussels next week, "the Visegrad group will strictly say that those who seek growth must say that they support cohesion policy," Tusk said.
"We want to persuade European partners that well-spent finances from the cohesion policy are a key growth tool," he added.
"There's one tool that guarantees growth and that is cohesion funds," said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban echoing the Polish leader.
According to EUbusiness, the funds had created millions of jobs in member countries catching up with the advanced EU economies, Orban added.
The 27-member European Union has allocated 347 billion euros ($435 billion) for cohesion and regional development spending boosting jobs, competitiveness or life quality over 2007-2013 period, accounting for 35.7 percent of its overall budget.
Savings in the new financial framework "cannot be made at the cost of cohesion policy. They would have to affect all areas," Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas warned.