Days after their governments obediently agreed to the new constitution, the Commission has granted the ten accession countries 24 billion euros in economic and social development aid, for the years 2004-2006. Poland receives the largest amount, at 8.2 billion euros, much of it to be spent on modernising its fisheries and fish processing.
The awards were announced during a ceremony in Brussels today - thereby milking the occasion of as much publicity as possible – when EU commissioners Jacques Barrot and Pèter Balàzs handed over the Commission decisions to the Permanent Representatives of the recipient countries. There is no confirmation as to whether they were asked to beg. Not were there any details of the colour of the envelopes in which the money will be placed.
Nevertheless, it was confirmed that Hungary was "awarded" 1.9 bn, the Czech Republic 1.45 bn, Slovakia 1.041 bn euros, Lithuania 895 m, Latvia 626 m, Estonia with 371 m and Slovenia 237 m. Malta and Cyprus, both with GNPs well above the community average, get respectively 63 and 53 million euros.
The "awards", coming so soon after the constitutional treaty has been agreed, and before the accession states are so desperately needed to ratify it, is highly fortuitous.
For details, see Commission press release: click here.