The next six months will trace the future of EU cohesion policy at both the budgetary and legislative levels. Things fell a bit behind schedule when the heads of state failed to agree on the Union's budget for 2014-2020 at the 21-22 November 2012 summit. They are expected to make good their delay in the first half of 2013, at a date that has not been set yet, but no later than the end of March (February is being mentioned). By then, it will be known how much member states plan to allocate to this policy and how they want to divide it up among the different regions. The latest proposal made at the November summit was for 320.148 billion, ie nearly 20 billion less than the European Commission's figure.

Obviously, there is no guarantee that this sum will not be cut further (although cohesion policy fared rather well at the latest summit, compared with the European Council president's earlier proposal of only 309.495 billion). It remains to be seen what Parliament will do, after claiming that the Commission's figure is a minimum. Everything will of course hang on the overall budget deal. But it would make things easier if the Friends of cohesion' - the net beneficiaries - were to find things to their liking, particularly through various little hand-outs and adjustments that have been offered.

Observers are of the opinion that, for cohesion policy, the European Council's final agreement will probably not change much from what stands at this point (and the fact of having reached the stage of small hand-outs tends to confirm that view). That leaves the legislative package to settle. The Cyprus Presidency has made...

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