The European Commission proposed on Tuesday increased spending of EU money on Italy and other southern member states hit by the economic and migrant crises, while reducing funds for regions in the bloc's former communist eastern countries.
The proposal on the 2021-2027 budget, which details plans announced a month ago, comes as Italy is facing the prospect of snap elections after the summer, which polls show could further strengthen eurosceptic parties.
The budget, the first after Britain voted to leave the bloc, would increase to 1.1 trillion euros from 1 trillion euros in the current seven-year period. A third of spending would be allocated to the "cohesion policy" which helps reduce the gap between rich and poor regions of the bloc.
The commission proposed a new methodology to distribute funds that takes into account unemployment levels and the reception of migrants, and not just economic output as previously.
EU funds for Italy's poorest regions would increase to 43.4 billion euros from 35.1 billion. Spain will see an increase of cohesion funds to 38.3 billion euros from 31.2 billion and Greece to 21.6 billion from 17.3 billion.
Greece, Italy and Spain face double-digit unemployment, while jobless rates are below 5 percent of the workforce in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Italy and Greece are also the bloc's main first-arrival countries for migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa.
Eastern countries, led by Poland and Hungary, have refused to host refugees under an EU relocation plan.
The Commission will publish in the coming days and weeks other detailed proposals on future expenditures on security, research and other budget headings. [Reuters]