Calls by leading Conservative politicians for European Structural Funds to be distributed differently would be a “hammer blow” to Wales according to Welsh Labour MEP, DEREK VAUGHAN.
The Conservative led coalition government is thought to be considering proposals, as part of the ongoing EU budget negotiations, that would see such support reduced and allocated only on the basis of how poor Member States are, rather than looking in more detail at how poorer regions within wealthier Member States are performing as well.
DEREK VAUGHAN MEP said:
"There is a real danger that Wales would lose out massively if funding currently allocated by the EU on a regional basis – a systems that works in Wales’ favour – should instead be subjected to the whims nationally of the highly Eurosceptic Tory-led coalition.
It would effectively be left to the UK Government, and a Prime Minister under pressure from the Eurosceptic wing of his party, to devise its own scheme and decide where and how to spend that money with absolutely no guarantee that they would choose to support those UK regions, such as Wales, that need it the most. Indeed, does anyone really believe that the current UK Government will give Wales an extra £1.7 billion over the next few years?
Structural Funding has brought in £1.7bn investment to Wales in recent years supporting 342,000 people and creating 13,000 jobs and 2,500 enterprises. There is a genuine opportunity, with EU budget priorities being set for the next seven year period to deliver on the key priorities of jobs and growth, especially in economically vulnerable areas like Wales.
Wales should continue to receive fair and equal treatment in comparison to other regions in the EU and it would very much be a leap of faith to expect David Cameron to deliver on this if left to his own devices. At a time when his austerity measures are having a damaging effect on communities the length and breadth of Wales, any loss of European Funding would be a hammer blow.
If savings are to e made in the EU budget they should be found elsewhere. We need to protect the funding of programmes that promote jobs and growth."
Having campaigned for Wales to retain Structural Funding since first elected to the European Parliament in 2009, MR VAUGHAN added:
"Wales remains a net beneficiary of EU Structural Funding to the tune of £915m. Our most deprived communities in receipt of the additional investment gain real and tangible support. For example, West Wales and the Valleys makes a contribution of £819m in but gets back £2072m back in return.
It is too important an issue to be used as a means of placating the increasingly restless Tory backbenches in Westminster."