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NEW EUROPEAN FUNDS A 'GOLDEN SCENARIO' - FIRST MINISTER

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Plans for the next round of European Structural Funds in West Wales and the Valleys have been officially launched f...
Plans for the next round of European Structural Funds in West Wales and the Valleys have been officially launched for public consultation by first minister Rhodri Morgan.

The new EU Convergence Programme consultation document will be discussed by a wide range of stakeholders during a 10-week public consultation period that closes on 6 October 2006.

The Convergence Programme - successor of the 2000-2006 Objective 1 programme - will mean an extra£1.3bn of grant to pump prime the second phase of the economic transformation of West Wales and the Valleys, Mr Morgan told the official launch at Tredomen Business Park, Tredomen near Ystrad Mynach.

The award of a second round of European funding for 2007-2013 means a 'golden scenario' for Valley and rural communities, the First Minister said.

'We will be building on the sound foundations laid by the current Objective 1 programme - which has enabled nearly 1,700 projects to deliver a total investment worth more than£3 billion to the West Wales and Valleys economy.

'Now it is our goal in the next round of EU funding to take forward interventions with a proven track record of success.

'In line with the European Union's 'Lisbon agenda', a significant proportion of the next round of funding, at least 65 per cent, is to be allocated to activity that directly supports growth and jobs. This exceeds the minimum requirement in the Regulations, demonstrating the Welsh Assembly Government's own commitment to the Lisbon Agenda as set out in our economic strategy, Wales: A Vibrant Economy.

'The key feature of the new programme is the higher priority it sets on innovation and moving into the knowledge-driven economy.

'We are also proposing an increase in support from the European Social Fund, which will rise to 40 per cent of Convergence funding. This will both develop the high-level skills essential for our future prosperity and getting those on benefits to reengage in the labour market thus benefiting disadvantaged groups and deprived communities.'

The new programmes are being developed in accordance with the EU requirement for an active partnership process, which in Wales involves a range of major stakeholders and interested parties, the First Minister added.

The Welsh Assembly Government wants a wide debate on the plan before it is submitted to the European Commission in the autumn, Mr Morgan said.

Notes

-- The new Convergence programme (2007-2013) is designed to help regions like West Wales and the Valleys complete the transition into a leading edge, competitive, and knowledge-based economy. It takes the place of the current Objective 1 programme.

-- The Convergence programme will draw funding from the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund.

-- There will be six priorities covering employment, skills, business competitiveness, infrastructure & environment, urban & rural regeneration and improving the effectiveness of our public services.

-- The bilingual consultation document and supporting documents are available here: www.wefo.wales.gov.uk

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