Posted by: Ben Vickers on November 7, 2011
From 1986 up until today, the EU has spent 602.7 billion euros on helping the poorer regions of the bloc catch up with richer ones, according to European Commission data. The money has been funnelled through the so-called structural funds, and has been spent on roads, railways, ports, business development, training—just about anything that could be shown to improve prospects for economic growth. The structural funds have been one of the EU’s tools for pulling Europe’s disparate economies together.
And who has benefited the most? Spain has been the big beneficiary in absolute terms, with 130 billion euros pouring into the country over those 25 years. Greece, a much smaller economy, has received 58 billion euros and Portugal has had 60 billion euros. These three countries along with Italy, which got 74 billion euros, account for more than half the funds handed out by Brussels to help push up GDP.
However, the expansion of the EU to Eastern Europe in 2004 and in 2007 meant the bloc had to divert money to the economic development of the new members, and the Mediterranean countries had to compete for funds with their even poorer eastern neighbors—and they will eventually be excluded from this funding altogether.
The figures for this year, admitedly with two months still to go, show a big the drop in EU investment funds for some. The most dramatic cut has been in Greece, which received 5.2 billion euros for investment from the structural funds in 2007 and this year has received 1.6 billion euros—that is a substantial drop for a country with a GDP of 305 billion euros in 2010.
Italy’s funds have been cut from 5 billion euros to 1.3 billion euros, a drop of about 70 percent. Spain’s funds have dropped about 30 percent to 4.4 billion euros. Only the Portuguese seem to be in line for preserving their 2.8 billion euros from the EU’s investment funds.
The question remains, for eastern European nations as much as for southern Europe, whether these funds accomplish what they were intended to do.