Monika Wulf-Mathies, commissioner for the regions, said in an interview with The Journal that the region should have nothing to fear from the shake-up of the grant structure and the expansion of the European Union.
But business leaders are disappointed at Ms Wulf-Mathias' refusal to offer any hope of the plans being changed.
Following a reorganisation of the grant aid system - known as Objective 2 funding - jobless levels in the region fall below the European average and Ms Wulf-Mathies believes the unemployment rate of a region must be the 'main criterion' for deciding which areas get aid.
Ms Wulf-Mathies would not budge on calls by north-east business leaders to allow gross domestic product, a measure of productivity per head, to be used to assess whether a region deserves regional aid.
Ms Wulf-Mathies said: 'The main sign of a structural crisis is normally that people are being made redundant and cannot find jobs.'
Ms Wulf-Mathies said she could not say at this stage whether the north-east will qualify for Objective 2 aid.
However, the European Commission says only industrial regions whose unemployment is above the EU average of 10.8% will qualify for the aid. The official measure of joblessness in the north-east is currently 8.2%.
But she said the British government would be able to choose half the areas for aid using its own criteria. She said firms in the north-east will benefit from new countries joining the European Union.
'The potential for increased trade with the countries of eastern Europe is vast,' she said.
There may be a role for the North East Regional Development Agency.
'If RDAs can help co-ordinate the streams of public monies which match the European grants awarded through our programmes it will be a step forward,' she said.