PM’s EU budget relief

Greece will receive up to 18.3 billion euros from the European Union’s common budget between 2014 and 2020 – an increase on what Athens had expected a few months ago but a substantial reduction on the last support package, as the 28-state block attempts to rein in its expenses.

“Under difficult conditions, we achieved the best we possibly could,” said Prime Minister Antonis Samaras after talks that lasted about 30 hours as Northern European countries pressed for the overall budget to be reduced. “It is a decision that is a psychological boost for us all.”

Greece is to receive 14.5 billion euros as part of the community support framework, while another 1.8 billion euros will be forthcoming for rural development, but not the agricultural subsidies that had been paid in the past. Athens is also set to be given about 2 billion euros more in 2016, when its participation in the EU budget will be reassessed due to its dramatic recession.

The package is substantially less than the last one, when Greece received 25 billion euros. This reflects the overall trimming of the EU budget by about 3 percent to 960 billion euros. Greece was also hampered by the fact that the payments were calculated based on pre-crisis GDP levels.

The structural funds will be invested in a range of areas, including infrastructure projects and schemes to combat youth unemployment. The EU’s participation in the funding of some of these projects will reach 80-90 percent due to the poor state of the country’s economy.

“Although the overall EU budget was reduced, Greece achieved the biggest increase in comparison to the European Commission’s proposals, which was for us to receive 11.2 billion euros,” said Samaras. “We remain concerned about the future of Europe. The Union cannot be strengthened when its funding is weakened.”

In annual terms, the EU budget amounts to 1 percent of total economic output in the bloc. “We simply could not ignore the extremely difficult economic realities across Europe, so it had to be a leaner budget,” said European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.

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