Jane Hutt, Minister for Finance and Leader of the House
This week has seen a number of important EU announcements. On 19 November the European Parliament agreed the Multi-annual Financial Framework for 2014–2020 and yesterday (20 November) it agreed the legislative packages for the European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund, and European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
These political agreements are fundamental, as they will help pave the way for the formal adoption of the new Regulations for the Structural Funds and the Rural Development Plan by the EU’s Council of Ministers and the submission of the UK Partnership Agreement by the UK Government – both of which are expected towards the end of December.
WEFO officials are also part of the UK Government delegation meeting with the European Commission today to discuss the latest version of the UK Partnership Agreement. This needs to be submitted to the Commission before we can formally submit our programming documents to the Commission for formal negotiation and agreement over the coming months.
In the meantime, we are doing everything possible to help stakeholders with planning and development of Structural Funds projects so that we can hit the ground running from early 2014.
As well as the informal negotiations already underway with the European Commission, we will be publishing over the next few days key draft information on the WEFO website (www.wefo.wales.gov.uk). This will include the draft Welsh Chapter of the UK Partnership Agreement, the draft Operational Programmes for the Structural Funds, the first draft iteration of the Economic Prioritisation Framework, and other draft guidance – all of which are now at an advanced stage of development following extensive internal and external stakeholder engagement. The documents, however, will continue to be subject to revision in the light of comments from the independent Ex-Ante evaluators and informal feedback from the European Commission. They will therefore be regularly updated on the WEFO website as matters progress.
I will also be attending WEFO’s Annual Event in Cardiff on 28 November as we continue to engage with our key stakeholders on the delivery arrangements of the future programmes, while WEFO has also been holding a series of delivery workshops for future project developers across Wales.
I am also pleased that the European Parliament agreed today the regulations for the Horizon 2020 research and innovation fund, worth €79 billion across EU regions. Last week the First Minister and I launched the Horizon 2020 programme in Wales, where synergy between this fund and the future Structural Funds in Wales will be key in helping to widen participation in Horizon 2020 and in maximising the most of the EU investments to help increase our global competitiveness.
The Minister for Natural Resources and Food and I will also be making an announcement on the membership of the new single Programme Monitoring Committee, covering both Structural and Rural Development Funds for the 2014-2020 programme period in due course.