First Minister Carwyn Jones has been in the heart of the European Union to highlight the importance of Wales’s relationship with Europe when he visited Brussels today.
The future of EU funding for Wales will be on the agenda when he meets the Commissioner for Financial Programming & Budget, Janusz Lewandowski, and the Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn.
During his visit he will set out how a stable, vibrant European Union is vital to both the UK and Wales and how the Welsh Government is committed to remaining an active and constructive partner on the European stage.
The First Minister will also host a St David’s Day reception to promote Welsh goods and Wales as a place to invest. As well as quality Welsh lamb there will be an array of Welsh Seafood on offer, with over 10,000 tonnes exported annually alone from Anglesey to Europe, highlighting the strong links between Europe and Wales.
The First Minister said:"I am deeply committed to maintaining and growing Wales’ relationship with Europe and that is why I am here to take this message to the heart of the EU. The harsh rhetoric of the critics of the EU often drowns out the benefits of membership. I have no doubt that communities across Wales see real benefits from our relationship with Europe.
"Look at the Common Agricultural Policy - it pays agricultural businesses in Wales over £350 million every year, keeping businesses afloat and thousands of people in work, ensuring the viability of our rural communities by filtering money through shops, village pubs and other suppliers of goods and services.
"Structural Funds make a huge contribution to the Welsh economy, invested around the country to help people into work and supporting business. During the recent economic troubles this source of EU funding has been especially helpful. The joint, and innovative, investments we have made with the EU directly support a range of activity, from research and development, regeneration, to helping people who have been out of work gain new skills and find jobs.
"Then there is our trade relationship – the EU is of major economic importance for us in Wales. The vast free market it provides gives us barrier free access to 500 million consumers, which directly boosts growth and jobs.
"I want to see a continuing role for the EU in helping us emerge from recession and promote our economy. I am determined that the voice of Wales will continue to be heard loud and clear in Brussels as we seek to make sure our communities continue to benefit from membership of the EU."
Wales and Europe – facts and figures
The EU is Wales’ biggest trade destination, with exports totalling over £5 billion. This trade supports over 150,000 jobs in Wales.
The Common Agricultural Policy provides £350 million of support to Wales every year.
European funded projects in Wales includeThe £25 million South West Workways Project in Neath Port Talbot which provides work opportunities by matching economically inactive people with local businesses.
The Growth in Environmental Marine Sciences scheme which has been recognised by the EU for the innovative way it is supporting businesses in North West Wales.
Wales's first full scale tidal stream energy generator – Deltastream – is up and running thanks to £6.4 million of EU funding.£2.7 million towards creating a centre of excellence for design and innovation in Welsh industry.£3 million investment to create job opportunities and thriving local businesses by revitalising town centres in North East Wales.