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European Commission Seeks Budget Hike For 'Neighborhood' Countries

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission is proposing a 30 percent increase in its 2021-27 external-action budget, with a focus set on helping countries in its southern and eastern “neighborhoods” to raise standards in their efforts to join the European Union.

The commission on June 14 said the planned increase to 123 billion euros for the period is intended to show EU leadership "in times of uncertainties all over the world."

The commission called the external-action budget its main tool to support “partner countries in their political and economic transformations.”

The proposed budget level, up from 94.5 billion euros in the 2014-20 outlay, would set aside 22 billion for its neighborhood policy, up from 16.5 billion previously.

It said 14.5 billion euros would be earmarked to aid countries looking to gain EU membership, mainly in the Western Balkans, which includes Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.

“The increased and reformed budget will allow us to continue working with those countries that are engaged to join the EU, as well as maintaining our special relationship with our eastern and southern neighbors," said Johannes Hahn, commissioner for European neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations.

"This will support our strategic goal to achieve a space of stability, security, and prosperity close to the EU's borders," he added.

As an unwritten rule, two-thirds of the neighborhood budget tends to go to the Western Balkans or southern neighborhood, with the rest going to the eastern region, which consists of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

The budget hike, part of an overall 1.28 trillion euro budget request, will be put to a vote by EU member states and the European Parliament and are often the start of long and arduous negotiations.

Several EU states have indicated they want to see a decline of the general budget after Britain leaves the EU next year.

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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.