The threat to hundreds of millions of pounds of annual funding from the EU to Wales has been calmed following the publication of the 5th Report on Cohesion Policy by the European Commission, released this afternoon.
Proposals had previously been discussed at EU level that would have meant that Wales would not have been able to benefit from Structural Funding after-2013, depriving vital projects of cash designed to promote economic and social development in deprived communities. However, following a long campaign by Welsh MEPs, in conjunction with their counterparts from other European regions, officials have now moved to safeguard the investment schemes and to ensure that countries, like Wales, do not miss out.
Welsh Labour MEP, DEREK VAUGHAN, speaking from the European Parliament in Brussels, said:
"The European Commission have listened carefully to the arguments that we have put forward and made a number of concessions that will prove to be beneficial in securing continuing investment for Wales.
Although, this is only the consultation stage on the future of Structural Funding, the vast majority of concerns that would have been hugely detrimental to Wales have now been satisfactorily addressed.
I am pleased that Structural Funding will remain available to all regions of the EU and that transitional status will be awarded to regions, such as Wales, who are at risk of falling out of the qualifying criteria for Convergence. This is great news for areas including West Wales and the Valleys who otherwise would have been suddenly jettisoned from receiving this support.
A scheme similar to Competitiveness will still be in place after 2013 and the European Social Fund remains as part of EU regional policy for the foreseeable future – both highly significant announcements which will make a huge difference to large parts of Wales."
Mr Vaughan added:
"The publication of this report has, quite rightly, been seen as one of the most important events in Wales’ relationship with the EU in recent years. I look forward to seeing further details and more specific commitments being made in due course. However, the tone and content of the report is reassuring for Wales – particularly at a time of such economic uncertainty and coalition cutbacks – and I give a cautious welcome to what I have seen today."