European Union expansion or not, European Union financial aid will continue to trickle in to the Balearics until 2006 “then we'll see what happens.” The assurances were given yesterday by the director of Spain's European Commission delegation, Miguel Molto during a debate involving Italian, Spanish and Czech journalists on European Union expansion at the Hotel Formentor. Molto said that the Balearics will receive all the financial aid which has been approved and is due from the European Union until 2006 “then in 2007, when the new distribution of community money is negotiated, we'll see what happens.” However, while Molto said that money will not be on the agenda again until 2005 or even 2006 “the expansion of the European Union will alter the criteria.” The Balearics will have received a total of 15.041 million pesetas by the close of 2006, which is similar to the amount of money central government would have ploughed into the islands - bringing the total amount of financial aid the Balearics would have received to 30'000 million pesetas, three times the amount handed out last time. But the Balearics and Spain fear that expansion of the European Union, to include a new wave of lesser developed and poorer Eastern European countries, will bring about a reduction in European Union money. A total of 13 countries have applied to joining the Union including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Estonia, Cyprus, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, Malta and Turkey. Spain will become one of the countries that will see its European Union funding reduced at the expense of the financial needs of the new member states. One of the EU's poorer members, Spain is currently the largest beneficiary of the funding system. Germany is the biggest contributor and Spain has annoyed other member states by demanding continued access to European Union regional funds after enlargement, in return for backing a politically sensitive deal sought by Germany limiting free movement of eastern European workers. Spain is also the biggest single beneficiary of structural funds, which poorer regions in richer European Union countries like Germany, Britain and France also qualify for. A number of other concerns were aired by journalists yesterday. The first was over the distribution of votes in the European Council. The majority believes that the number of votes should relate to the size and importance of the various member states.

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