With the 40th Anniversary of UK membership of the EU being marked by a public debate on Wales in Europe at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay tomorrow evening (Wed 1st May), DEREK VAUGHAN MEP believes that now is the time for Wales to look forward and be confident of its place on the European stage.
Mr Vaughan, who will be speaking at the meeting, said:
"Membership of the EU has been hugely beneficial for Wales.
Vital Structural Funding brings hundreds of millions of pounds into Welsh communities each year, supporting important projects that tackle longstanding issues around skills, training and economic infrastructure. Areas such as West Wales and the Valleys receive valuable investment that is transforming local communities, enabling them to give people an opportunity to fulfil their potential.
Recent research confirms that Wales gets more out of the EU than it pays in and so financially it is a win win situation. But more than that, we now take for granted advances in fields such as workers’ rights and consumer and environmental protection that first came about as a result of moves on an EU wide basis.
We must also remember what is perhaps the crowning achievement of the EU but one that is starting to slip from people’s memories and that is the longest period of peace between the major European powers. It is by building closer relationships and working together in pursuit of shared aims and goals that a return to needless and costly conflicts can be avoided."
Commenting on Wales’ future role within the EU, he added:
"The 40th Anniversary presents a perfect opportunity not only to assess what has happened in the past but also to refresh our role in the EU and look at ways in which it can continue to improve the quality of life for Welsh people.
Its most immediate concern should be to concentrate on creating more sustainable jobs and growth by investing in research, development and innovation. The mistaken austerity policies of many Member State governments, including our own here in the UK, is damaging the EU economy and generating huge social costs such as high rates of unemployment, especially amongst the young. The EU needs to urgently address this.
With the development of new technology and advances in travel, the World is becoming an increasingly smaller place. Pressing economic and political problems pay no respect to borders and only by co-operating with others can we expect Wales and the UK to be able to continue to punch its weight on a wider scale.
The pro-European stance of the Labour Welsh Government, in complete contrast to its Tory-Lib Dem UK counterpart, shows that by having a positive, engaged commitment in the EU, we can have a proper input and get our voice heard when decisions are being taken on a range of issues from Regional Policy to agriculture.
We should be more confident in promoting a clear message that co-operation and partnership is in the national interest and once and for all lay to rest the follies of isolationism and grandstanding being pursued by rightwingers in the Tory Party and UKIP."