As governments clash with Brussels, some cities hope to claim EU funds

WARSAW (Reuters) - Some European city mayors whose national governments are in conflict with Brussels could seek ways to access European Union funds directly, the mayor of Poland's capital Warsaw said on Tuesday.

Rafal Trzaskowski said EU funding was one area in which he and counterparts from Czech capital Prague, Slovakia's capital Bratislava and Hungarian capital Budapest would pledge to cooperate at a meeting on Monday.

"In Budapest we will sign an agreement on cooperation regarding climate change, money, and common projects," Trzaskowski told reporters.

The mayors consider themselves more pro-EU and politically liberal than their respective national governments, some of which have clashed with Brussels over EU rules and standards.

Moves by Hungary and Poland to bring their courts and media under tighter state control have led the executive European Commission to begin rule-of-law investigations that could in theory lead to a suspension of their EU voting rights.

Brussels is also considering tying adherence to the rule of law and democratic standards with access to EU budget funds -- already set to shrink when Britain leaves the 28-country bloc.

That could place cities like Warsaw, which has received some 16 billion zloty ($4.1 billion) from the current EU budget, which began in 2014 and ends next year, at risk of funding cuts.

Trzaskowski said Warsaw and other cities were hoping to secure access to EU cohesion and structural funds, which can be distributed both at national and regional level, even if the EU penalizes their national governments with funding cuts.

"I prefer to explain to our friends in the EU that it would be good for us to access EU money despite the fact that our government infringes the rule of law," he said.

Trzaskowski said Warsaw, Budapest, Prague and Bratislava could also seek to build ties with cities such as Istanbul, where authorities are in conflict with Turkey's ruling party.

(Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels; Editing by Joanna Plucinska and Catherine Evans)