The European Commission is set to demand that all Member States fully disclose information on the recipients of Structural Funds.
Structural Funds are used in relatively poor regions of the EU to aid small firms' competitiveness, create jobs and boost infrastructure. The demand for the disclosure comes as part of Brussels transparency drive. However the beneficiaries of the European Social Fund will be exempt from this initiative. The aim of the Social Fund is to prevent and combat unemployment. Structural Funds amount to a third of the EU budget.
However it is thought that not all Member States will willingly comply. When asked to disclose the recipients of agricultural subsidies, the UK and the Netherlands complied, however Germany sites data protection rules as a barrier to disclosing the information.
Scotland has benefited from £1.1 billion in Structural Funds since 2000. Examples of projects Structural Funds have been used for included knowledge exchanges between Finland, Norway and the Highlands regarding working practices and the maintenance of roads in winter, combating discrimination in the labour market and sustainable rural development.
The European and External Relations Committee at the Scottish Parliament is currently holding an inquiry into how best to spend the Structural Funds, particularly in response to the fact that funds for Scotland could be cut by as much as 55%. The reason for the cut is the recent enlargement of the EU, to include several Member States from Eastern Europe who are still recovering from decades of Communism.
The Scottish Executive also recently proposed to create two super areas for Structural Funding, one for the lowlands and another for the Highlands and Island. However this idea has been strongly lobbied against, particularly by the South of Scotland Association who fears a loss of identity. The European and External Relations Committee has lent its support to the SoSA.