As eurocrats count the cost of life without Britain, they have proposed swingeing cuts to funding for the union’s flagship cohesion policy as a way to plug a £11.5billion gap once the UK exits.
But Europe’s poorest regions fear Brussels bureaucrats are on self destruct as they warn harsh cuts could destroy the EU.
The Czech Republic is one of those nations after receiving €22.1billion during the EU’s previous budget cycle – a figure likely to be slashed in the coming weeks.
Czech State Secretary for European Affairs Aleš Chmelař told politics news site, Politico.co.uk: “We tend to forget why the Cohesion Policy was created in the first place.
“If too large cuts in Cohesion Policy were implemented, this would put the whole European project and its main benefits at risk.”
The EU’s controversial cohesion policy involves huge sums of cash being invested in the poorest regions the union, with the goal of improving living standards, developing new infrastructure and creating jobs.
Funding for the cohesion project makes up a whopping one-third of the EU’s budget.
Net contributor nations are responsible for funding this policy, which is designed to improve living standards, modernise infrastructure and boost economic growth.
Scores of major projects across the UK have been paid for thanks to the policy, but since 2014 the EU has changed tack and opted to only invest cash in the most deprived areas.
However, European budget commissioner Guenther Oettinger said the EU is ready to cut back on some of its landmark schemes, such as its cohesion policy which provides massive investment to the bloc’s poorest regions.
This comes after he revealed the EU faces an £11billion shortfall due to Brexit which forms part of an overall £18billion budget blackhole caused by other crises including migration.
Mayor of the Czech city of Ostrava, Tomáš Macura, said his region was preparing for the worst.
He added: “We are definitely trying to be prepared for the period when the EU and other funds will be lower, or maybe zero.
“We try to collect money from other players.”
Tomáš Kolárik, director of a regional development agency in Ostrava warned companies would “cease to exist or significantly reduce their service” if cohesion funding was cut.
The warning comes after the Netherlands became the latest EU member to refuse to pay more to plug the budget blackhole left by Brexit.
The act of defiance showed the cracks starting emerge in the 27-member bloc, who have put on a united front in Brexit talks.