Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes
In my oral and written statement to Members during this term on the development of any future European Programmes in Wales (2014–2020), I promised to keep Members informed of key developments.
I have previously updated Members on the Welsh Government’s initial views on the European Commission’s draft regulations, which focus on interventions aimed at delivering ‘Europe 2020’ for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The regulations provide a good starting point for our negotiations with the UK Government and Commission which are now getting underway.
We won’t know for some time how much funding different parts of Wales might secure for any future European programmes, but what we are clear on is that we need to start planning now – to ensure we hit the ground running come 2014.
As well as working closely with key players at EU and UK levels, we are continuing to work with the European Programmes Partnership Forum and stakeholders across Wales to ensure that the new programmes address the main challenges and opportunities facing Wales and are delivered successfully.
As we embark on this planning process together, I am pleased to inform Members of the launch of a ‘reflection exercise’ on 1 December so that organisations across the private, public and third sectors and other interested parties in Wales are provided with an early opportunity to offer their views on the strategic direction and priorities for future European programmes.
The reflection exercise will cover the European Structural Funds, Rural Development and Fisheries programmes, as it is important that these programmes are developed in a joined up way to achieve the greatest impact for any future EU investments in Wales.
While we must set our ambitions high, we also need to be realistic about what the European programmes can do to help address the many challenges facing our country at a time when fiscal, budgetary, Eurozone and global pressures continue to escalate.
This will require us to make choices about how we should concentrate EU investments so as to maximise the opportunities available and help address the problems that continue to afflict parts of Wales. As part of the Reflection Exercise, participants are being asked to consider questions that focus on areas such as how best to target resources where they are most needed, how to achieve better integration of the various EU programmes across Wales, how to improve on current delivery arrangements, and to identify the key lessons learned from the current 2007–2013 programmes. The responses received will help us reach a clear view on future strategic investment priorities and the strategy for addressing these.
I will also be listening to the views of Members; a Plenary debate on the future European programmes has been scheduled for 10 January 2012.
Once both Members and our partners have helped fashion the future strategic direction for European programmes, we will need to develop new draft programmes, and it is proposed that these will be the subject of a full public consultation towards the end of 2012 before we commence negotiations on the detail with the European Commission.
Prior to this, I would encourage you to let us have your early thoughts by participating in this reflection exercise, so that we all can play a positive and constructive role in shaping the future programmes for the benefit of the people of Wales.
The reflection exercise document and questionnaire is now available on the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) website (www.wefo.wales.gov.uk). The closing date for responses is 27 January 2012. A brief summary report of the responses received will be published in March 2012.