Will the Czech Republic's regions really benefit from EU accession?

Photo: European Commission

In less than three weeks, the Czech Republic will become a member of the European Union. One of the potential benefits of membership is that the country will be entitled to money from EU funds allocated for regional development, as the aim is to eliminate differences between regions and ensure their smooth development within the European Union. But will the regions of the Czech Republic really profit from EU membership?

Photo: European Commission
In the first two years after accession, there will be around 2.5 billion euros of EU money available to the Czech Republic. Approximately one third of that amount has been set aside for the country's regional development. The money could be used towards building new roads, water-treatment plants or to support education. But it will be available only for well-prepared projects. The country's regional governors say that the state, namely the Ministry for Local Development, which is in this case the main partner of Brussels, has done little to help the regions acquire money from the European Union structural funds. Evzen Tosenovsky is the governor of North Moravia.

"We are still working in provisional conditions. A lot of the money put aside for regional development is stuck at the ministry and we still have to ask for subsidies. If we wanted to start a bigger project, we would have to get a loan. The EU is preparing programmes to support research and development and the building of trans-European communications, and I am worried that we will not be able to compete with the bigger states in acquiring money for that from EU funds."

The Ministry for Local Development is now running a number of seminars across the country to provide information on the official requirements for applying. It says all the necessary rules for obtaining EU money will be set by the accession date. But the regional governors have agreed this is too late and that certainly this year, the Czech Republic's regions won't be able to obtain the whole sum on offer.

One rather atypical region of the Czech Republic is the city of Prague. Currently, the municipality is generating more than 25 percent of GDP in the Czech Republic and receives back only about 7 percent from the state budget. Mayor Pavel Bem says that, unfortunately for Prague, the situation will continue even after EU accession.

"With 125 percent of GDP per capita of the European average, the city of Prague has been rated as a municipality too rich to be eligible to receive any support from the Objective 1. That means that Prague will definitely give more, including the fee and payment of the Czech Republic to the European Union than the city of Prague will receive in the future. So from the structural policy we are in a definitely disadvantageous situation. This is a major reason for me and the city of Prague to try and influence the structural policy of the European Union after 2006."