BRUSSELS The European Commission said on Wednesday it will propose plans by next year to change EU long-term budgets to try to shift resources from poor regions and farmers to new priorities, including defence and security.
Financial transfers to less developed areas of the bloc, known as cohesion policy, and financial support to the agriculture sector absorb more than half of the 1-trillion-euros EU budget for the period 2014-2020, although they are lower than in past budgets.
As the EU is faced with new challenges, such as massive migration and terrorism, the European Commission wants to further reduce traditional spending, especially as member states are increasingly reluctant to pay more money into the EU budget.
"We have to be prepared ... to take stock of everything that is now taken as a sacred cow in the budget ... the two big blocks of agriculture and cohesion," the commissioner in charge of the budget, Kristalina Georgieva, told a news conference in Strasbourg.
"Where will we land? I cannot predict whether it will be business as usual with some improvement, a major shift or a revolution."
Some Eastern European states fear the proposed changes may reduce resources for poor members of the bloc, such as them, diplomats said. Countries with strong agriculture sectors, such as France and Italy, may also raise some reservations.
The EU long-term budget has to be agreed with the unanimous backing of all EU states.
The proposal for the next long-term budget, which will be operational after 2020, will be made by the end of 2017, the Commission said in a document.
Plans to review the EU's budget policy are made more urgent by Britain's June 23 vote to quit the union, which may deprive the bloc of one of its main contributors, but will also cancel the financial rebate that London receives from Brussels.
The paper said the Commission would assess how effective spending is in agriculture and regional policy and will look into new areas, such as the completion of Europe's Economic and Monetary Union and defence and security.
The document also proposed for the current long-term budget a further increase of spending to manage migration flows and create jobs, confirming a trend already visible in plans for next year's budget.
These additional resources will come from reserves of the EU budget and will not affect money already pledged to other policies, the Commission said in a note.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Alison Williams)