MEPs have backed budget plans which will see European aid given to Wales until 2020. Their final vote in the European Parliament in Strasbourg follows years of discussions on the distribution of aid money to some of the poorest regions of the EU.
Wales has qualified for the highest level of aid which is expected to mean €2.1bn over the course of the spending period. It's a higher amount than had been expected after the UK Government agreed to cut some funding from parts of England.
It'll be the third round of aid given to Wales. The Welsh Government has been criticised for some of its previous spending priorities. If it gets permission from the European Commission, it intends to spend more of the next batch on roads and other infrastructure projects.
Derek Vaughan MEP has met the European Regional Policy Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, to press the case for an increased aid budget for West Wales and the Valleys. He was interviewed afterwards by Georg von Harrach. The pictures are from the European Parliament.
ITV Cymru Wales understands that the European Commission is close to approving the Welsh Government's proposals for spending €2.1 billion of aid to West Wales and the Valleys over the next seven years. Rough percentages have been given to the different spending priorities.
- Roads, public transport and other Infrastructure 50%
- Small and medium-sized businesses 15%
- Research and development 15%
- Low carbon projects 12%
- Information technology 8%
Although nothing is officially decided until the plans are formally presented as part of the UK Government's submission, the Welsh Government is close to securing half the money for its major priority of infrastructure development. The other four priorities have been set by the European Commission.
In a separate development, Welsh Labour MEP Derek Vaughan says Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn is "receptive" to the UK Government's plan to avoid a projected cut in the aid budget for West Wales and the Valleys to nearer €1.6 billion. Parts of England will lose out as a result.
It just seemed a nonsense that Wales could get a cut of 22%. We have won the arguments with the UK government, now we need to win the arguments with the Commission. The Commissioner is very sympathetic towards Wales. He knows and understands that Wales usually uses the funds well.
Talks on securing €2.1 billion in European aid to West Wales and the Valleys are reaching their final, crucial stage in Brussels.Read the full story ›
Plaid Cymru is blaming the UK government for leaving Wales off an EU map of priority transport corridors entitled to a share of €26 billion. The so-called TEN-T network indicates the ferry from Liverpool to Dublin as the main route between Britain and Ireland. The A55 to Holyhead is not shown.
Plaid MEP Jill Evans has claimed that the map is based on information given to the European Commission by the UK government. She described it as "another act of betrayal by the UK government against Wales". Ms Evans added that she will be taking the matter up with the Commission.
Welsh routes could still be included in a revised map of Europe's core transport network and so also be eligible for EU aid. But the priority corridors which leave Wales out are expected to have first claim on the money.
Sharp End is in Strasbourg for a special programme from the European Parliament discussing the effects of the EU on Wales.Read the full story ›
Tonight's Sharp End looks at controversies over Europe, powers for the Assembly and windfarms.Read the full story ›
Two senior Welsh Conservative AMs have said they would vote to leave the European Union if a referendum were held tomorrow. Deputy Leader Paul Davies said Tory MPs pushing for legislation for a vote 'are reflecting the mood of the country.' He said he'd 'vote to leave the EU in its present form.'
But he added that the Prime Minister should be given chance to renegotiate Britain's relationship with Brussels. He rejected the First Minister's claim that leaving would be disastrous for Wales. Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar said he'd 'most likely' vote 'out' if a vote were held tomorrow.
He said money sent to the EU could be used to develop home-made aid programmes rather than Brussels-led projects 'which have made diddly squat difference.' Their leader Andrew RT Davies has previously said he'd campaign for a no vote if negotiations to change the EU's direction were unsuccessful.
A Labour source says the results of the latest Sharp End poll call into question Plaid Cymru's stated aim of boosting its constituency vote in future Assembly elections and particularly leader Leanne Wood's decision to fight a constituency rather than a regional seat in 2016.
The poll suggests that Plaid's support in the constituency vote has dropped by 2% since the 2011 election although its since an increase of 8% in the regional vote. Plaid says 'it's very pleasing to see (the party) leading the votes on the National Assembly regional list.'
But the Labour source tells me that Plaid should be worried:
Leanne’s decision to stand in a constituency seat looks like it will come back to haunt her.
Plaid’s entire assembly election strategy is based around winning constituency seats. This poll suggests that strategy is destined to fail.
Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith says the results of the latest Sharp End poll represent a vote of confidence in Labour's leadership at Westminster and in Wales.
This poll is disastrous news for both the Tories and the Lib Dems. It shows the plummeting support for the UK coalition parties and a strong vote of confidence in the leadership of Ed Miliband and Carwyn Jones. That Plaid Cymru's support is also down shows that voters value the way the Welsh Labour Government is standing up for Wales in the face of cuts from Westminster.
There is a long way to go until the next elections but what is clear is that people can see for themselves the difference between a Labour Government investing in jobs and growth and protecting public services, and a Tory/Lib Dem Government prioritising a tax cut for millionaires while cutting support for working people.