In late February, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the bloc's structural funds should become linked to a state's readiness to accept migrants. Under Merkel's leadership, Germany opened its borders to migrants in 2015, while a number of other EU states, including Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, have been opposed to taking in migrants.
In December, the European Commission decided to refer the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to the Court of Justice over their non-compliance with migrant quotas. The countries that fail to accept a sufficient amount of migrants are risking to lose their voting rights in the European Union.
The European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI) were set up to strengthen the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the bloc. The five funds support more than a million projects, providing the necessary help to regions in crisis, financing research and development, boosting education and training, and promoting efficient public administration or competitiveness of small and medium-sized businesses.
Berlin is alienating the rest of the bloc by trying to link these funds to each states' migration policy, the federal chairman of Alternative for Germany (AfD) and a member of parliament, told Sputnik.
"It would be better instead to significantly reduce the funding for cohesion and structural support, as they obviously do not seem to have served their original purpose. We need an end to this completely unconventional redistributive policy," Joerg Meuthen said.
Other countries that have welcomed many migrants, such as Sweden and Denmark, have expressed support for the proposal. However, the reaction has been very negative in the Central European countries that rely heavily on the structural funds to support their struggling agricultural regions.
Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, sees it as a stab in the back by Merkel. The new Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has declared bluntly that it was not a good idea to focus solely on refugees for funding decisions.
On top of the problems with support for migrants is the impending Brexit that is currently being negotiated in Brussels, will mean a loss of cash from the United Kingdom, to the level of 20 billion euros a year, or about $24 billion. Savings are necessary, and wealthy nations — such as Germany — will be requested to contribute more to the EU budget.
Harald Weyel, the spokesman for the AfD parliamentary group, has stressed that Germany's unwillingness to join other states in calls for the repeal of the EU-budget after Brexit was "incomprehensible." According to Weyel, Berlin was missing an opportunity to reduce spending and thus relieve the burden on the German taxpayer.
Janice Atkinson, a member of the European Parliament and vice-chair of Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), believes that the United Kingdom, in particular, has paid its dues with regard to migration and UK Prime Minister Theresa May should stand up to "the EU bully boys of Merkel, [European Commission's President] Jean-Claude Juncker, [chief Brexit negotiator Guy] Verhofstadt, has-been socialists, communists and the alt left."
"Britain has a proud record of taking in real refugees and economic migrants when needed… Britain has contributed far too much over the years, we are leaving and we will not pay for your failed policies," Atkinson told Sputnik.
GERMANY'S TROUBLES AND SOLUTIONS
Germany itself is not entitled to to receive a lot of funding from the ESI, but it has accepted hundreds of thousands of migrants since 2015. Future family re-unifications will bring in more migrants who are likely to be in need of social welfare. A solid contribution from the ESI would be very helpful in this situation.
Therefore, on the one hand, Germany is looking to obtain new funding to support its migrant policy, while on the other hand, is penalizing the countries that resist migrant quotas.
The European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources is a German, Guenther Oettinger, who belongs to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and has been vocal about the EU countries that do not "respect the European values." He has forcefully stated that "European countries need to align with European values in order to benefit from membership of the bloc," in a typical example of carrot-and-stick policy.
Oettinger will present the next EU budget framework on May 2. One could expect new provisions favoring countries that welcome refugees starting from 2021.
Nevertheless, several groups in the European Parliament would vote against such a restructuring of the European funding if Commissioner Oettinger did present it, but even among the dominant parties, many members of the parliament will say no. The Poles are among these members, as their country has attracted strong criticism from Brussels over its judiciary reforms and migration stance. The Hungarians of Fidesz, Orban’s party, that are part of the dominant European Popular Party are also likely to vote "no."
The European parliament at the moment does not reflect the results of recent elections throughout Europe at national level, and the present rise of "populist" parties. This could change dramatically at the end of May 2019, after the next European elections. Merkel might not get her heavy structural funding for migrants after all.