The Czech Republic and the European Union budget
The Czech Republic has received a great deal of money through various EU programmes ahead of accession. The question many Czechs are now asking is: will EU funds still be available once they and the other nine new countries join the Union on May 1? That's something I discussed with Ivo Slosarcik of the Prague-based think tank Europeum.
In other areas, however, it is down to individual Czech applicants, be they regions, companies or other organisations, to prepare projects which would meet EU criteria. If they fail to do so, the country will simply miss out.
"In the budget there is reserved some amount of money for the Czech Republic, but it doesn't mean that 100 percent of that money will really go to the Czech Republic. It will depend whether the Czech Republic will be ready to prepare projects and implement them."
Even if Czech agencies don't get organised and receive all the money available to them, Ivo Slosarcik says the Czech Republic will be a net beneficiary, though it will not receive as much as Ireland or the Mediterranean countries did. And, he says, things should actually improve after the first few years.
"We hope that a few years later the Czech Republic will become a more intensive net beneficiary, in particular due to an increase in payments in the agricultural sector. As you know, the Czech Republic and all newcomers will start at 25 percent of Common Agricultural Policy payments. It will go up by five percent, then ten percent increase per year over the next ten years. So this will influence the amount of money the Czech Republic will get."
But while it is clear how much Common Agricultural Policy money will be received by Czech farmers, how the overall EU budget will look in a few years time is another matter.
"We can more or less precisely estimate what will be the budget implications for the Czech Republic in the years 2004, 2005, 2006, but for the more distant future it's really much less certain. Much will depend on the negotiations which are starting just now."