The regions will join areas such as southern Italy and eastern Germany in eligibility for 'objective 1' funds. These are aimed at areas where incomes are 75% or less of the European community average. Although incomes in the two British regions are slightly above this level, the EC has decided to include them, EC regional affairs commissioner Bruce Millan said yesterday. Northern Ireland is already eligible.
The exact amount of funding has yet to be decided but is expected to be worth hundreds of millions of pounds over the next few years, the Independent says.
Merseyside has engaged in a long campaign of behind the scenes lobbying for recognition. The highlands and islands opened an office in Brussels and gained the backing of Prime Minister John Major, the paper reports.