"Brussels has acknowledged that the rules for structural funds will be modified to provide support for countries like Portugal," reports the Lisbon daily Público. It explains that the European Commission is planning to present a proposal that will allow for a reduction of national governments’ contributions to projects benefitting from structural funds after 2014. This should ease the financing difficulties experienced by countries like Portugal and Greece.

As it stands, explains Público, "European rules dictate that structural funds to support development of the poorest EU countries must be co-financed, to the tune of 15% to 25%, by national governments." However, the crisis and the austerity polices adopted by the majority of member states "have severely limited their capacity to benefit from European aid." As of last week, the Commission has proposed that Greece be allowed to reduce its contribution to the structural funds, and that similar conditions should apply, starting in 2014, to all countries that benefit from structural funds.

The European Commission is set to launch the debate on the 2014-2020 EU budget on 29 June, and is also proposing to freeze spending at the 2007-2013 level. Policies described as “future-oriented” — research, innovation, education and neighbourhood policies — will nonetheless be granted budget increases, as will justice and interior affairs.