By Humphrey Carter
THE Balearic government will have its hands buried deep in its pockets today when the EU meets to discuss the 2007-2013 budget.
The proposed major shake-up and future review of agricultural subsidies could cost the region nearly 158 million euros in aid.
The Balearics is slowly coming to the end of the 235 million euros granted in aid by the European Union in the 2000-2006 budget and there are fears that, should Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero not stand up for Spain and defend the country's subsidies for the 2007-2013 budget, a number of regions will see their EU payments significantly reduced. The Balearics could see its total aid cut from 235 million to just 77.2 million euros under the new budget proposal put forward by Luxembourg yesterday. The region stands to see EU payments slashed by nearly 60 percent.
The Balearic Minister for Commerce, Industry and Energy, Josep Joan Cardona, yesterday spelt out the region's concerns to the European Commissioner for Regional Policies, Danuta Hubner, during a meeting with a number of other equally concerned Spanish regional ministers. Cardona is pleading for no cuts in Spain's budget and criticised the new budgetary proposals for failing to take into consideration the extra costs and needs of insular regions like the Balearics. Farmers Union president Biel Company called on the Prime Minister to stand firm against Britain, France and Germany and defend Spain's interests.
Company said that there is already a great deal of “uncertainty” about future EU farm payments to the Balearics in the local agricultural sector. “Farmers have already been hit by at least five recent cuts in EU farm aid and many farmers are worried about their futures,” he said.
In accordance with the budgetary proposal put forward by Luxembourg, which currently holds the EU presidency, the Balearics will no longer receive any social cohesion funds. The region's regional development and European social funds will be cut by 40 percent. Across the board, farming and rural development subsidies will be cut by nearly six percent.
Despite the majority of the Balearic electorate voting in favour of the troubled EU constitution in the March referendum, the region has been concerned for some time that it would eventually suffer at the hands of Spain losing EU cash aid in favour of the new developing members from the Eastern block. Over the years, the Balearics has done well out of Europe - for starters Brussels has helped build Palma's new airport as well as expand and improve the region's road and rail networks.

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