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CUT THE RED TAPE IN EUROPEAN REGIONAL FUNDING - BECKETT

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Cutting the red tape involved in European regional funding is central ...
Cutting the red tape involved in European regional funding is central

to progress being made in talks between European ministers, Margaret

Beckett, UK president of the board of trade said.

Chairing an informal meeting of European regional policy ministers in

Glasgow to discuss EU proposals for the Structural and Cohesion

Funds, part of the wider Agenda 2000 budget reform package, she said:

'Good progress has been made during the UK presidency on improving

the system of European regional funding. We are looking to cut the

red tape wherever we can. This will free up resources and offer

potential benefits to local people across Europe. It is a natural

step to wider reform. We are also seeking a system better equipped to

tackle our priorities of job creation, competitiveness and long-term

development.

'In our discussions with the commission and other member states, we

want to make sure the reforms lead to decisions on regional funding

being taken as close to the people as possible. Strong regional and

local partnerships are essential to the Structural Funds and they

must play a full part in deciding how best to target the money to

meet local needs.

'This is the first chance regional policy ministers have had to

discuss the commission's proposals face to face. We have already made

some progress, but are only at the start of a long negotiation.

'European enlargement is vital for Europe, for Britain - and for

business. We accept that all member states must be committed to

achieving enlargement at an affordable price. However it is important

that this should be on a basis that is fair to all EU countries,

including the UK.

'Affordability and fairness will be the UK's touchstones as the talks

increasingly concentrate on the eligibility criteria. There remains

much work to be done to secure the right outcome.

'The importance of getting these reforms right can not be stressed

too highly. Regional funding represents one of the most visible

benefits of the Union to British people. We will continue to push for

reform that is affordable, effective and above all fair.'

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