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Wales in Europe

This page provides information on Wales' position in Europe and the people involved in making our voice heard, as well as information on Wales' relationship with the European Union (EU).

Although Wales is not one of the 27 Member States of the European Union, it plays an active role within the European policy process through the UK government's membership. The relationship between Wales and Europe has developed significantly over the years.

The Welsh Assembly Government has had a physical presence in Brussels for over 10 years, ensuring that Wales has a 'voice on the ground'. This enables us to talk directly to the EU institutions, regional representatives and NGOs as well as participating in discussions as part of the UK member state representation in Brussels.

Welsh Ministers attend European events and Wales plays host to visits from European representatives including Commissioners, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and ambassadors.

We work closely with colleagues in Whitehall and Westminster to ensure that Wales’ views and opinions are incorporated in to UK government responses to European consultations.

Wales and the European Union

Every year Wales benefits from millions of pounds of European Funding to assist the sustainable development of the Welsh economy:

  • Wales has been awarded £1.9 billion of EU funds for the programme period 2007 to 2013, which will help generate a total investment of some £3.3 billion, to create sustainable jobs and growth in line with agendas, policies and strategies of the European Union and Welsh Assembly Government. 
  • At mid June 2010, 169 projects have been approved representing a total investment of over £2.6 billion (EU funds of some £1.3 billion) across Wales. Some £735m (28%) is being invested in business, some £1.1bn (42%) in people and over £760m (29%) for community regeneration, the environment and transport.
  • Funds committed to date are helping to provide over 33,500 opportunities for businesses and provide over 480,000 employment and training opportunities for individuals across Wales.  
  • Despite the difficult economic context, we are achieving outputs, with the EU projects (based on the achieved data submitted by sponsors) having already assisted some 109,520 participants, of which 11,745 have been helped into work and 38,555 supported to gain qualifications; while 3775 (gross) jobs and 1000 new enterprises have been created.
  • The Welsh European Funding Office has already met its 2010 N+2 (expenditure) target for European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Competitiveness and is on track to meet 2010 N+2 targets for the remaining Convergence and European Social Fund (ESF) Competitiveness programmes.

European funds are helping to deliver targeted and practical interventions to help businesses, individuals and communities, for example:

  • Projects such as the £68m (ESF £38m) ProAct programme are making a real difference - having already supported 230 companies and over 10,000 workers under threat of redundancy, while the £42m ReAct (ESF £19m) scheme is providing support to some 16,320 people who have lost their jobs.
  • Finance Wales' £150m Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises (JEREMIE) scheme (supported by £60m ERDF) represents a significant achievement for Wales and demonstrates that we are delivering our One Wales pledge of enabling Welsh businesses to flourish and expand. It has already invested £35m to some 210 small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
  • The £40m (£15m ERDF) Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas (JESSICA) initiative is a tool which allows ERDF funds to be invested in regeneration delivery partnerships (known as Urban Development Funds or UDFs) to accelerate investment in urban areas.  
  • Recent Regeneration approvals under the Convergence Programme include the Ebbw Vale Town Centre Regeneration (Blaenau Gwent Borough Council), Ferndale Regeneration Programme (Rhonnda Cynon Taf County Borough Council), Bargoed Regeneration Programme (Caerphilly County Borough Council), The Works (Carmarthenshire County Council) and Stackpole Rediscovered (National Trust).

EU Membership means freedom of movement across 27 countries:

  • In 2008, Welsh residents made 2,631,751 trips to EU countries.
  • Low-cost airlines exist due to EU rules on single market and competition.  Wales has benefited from RyanAir and BMIBaby operating from Cardiff International Airport
  • Welsh holiday-makers are covered for emergency hospital treatment anywhere in the EU by the E111 scheme

EU regulations are imposing common higher standards, reducing pollution and producing cleaner air, rivers and purer water:

  • EU funding has contributed to the reclamation of sites such as Brynlliw Tip near Swansea and flood alleviation schemes across Wales.
  • In 2010 there were a record 50 Blue Flag beaches across Wales, after they met the strict European Standards for water quality, litter collection and public amenities.  

EU education, training and youth programmes provide the opportunity to work, train or study in another country:

  • The University of Wales Swansea has participated in the Erasmus exchange programme since its inception.

Membership of the EU has enhanced institutional, economic and cultural co-operation, for example:

  • The Welsh Assembly Government has developed Memoranda of Understanding with countries and regions across the EU, including Latvia, Silesia (Poland) and Brittany (France).
  • Organisations from Wales are co-operating with partners across Europe under the EU Interreg programmes on a wide range of joint projects.

Membership of the EU has supported the development of the Information Communications Technology (ICT) agenda in Wales, for example:

  • £4.5 million to ensure the provision of broadband through the Regional Innovative Broadband Support (RIBS) project.
  • £3.9 million to break down social, economic and educational barriers to the exploitation of ICT across targeted communities via the communities@one project.
  • £0.7 million to provide broadband connectivity to all communities in Rhonnda Cynon Taff through the Virtual Communities Programme, and creating 1000 networked community access points, an interactive digital TV scheme and 53 public access terminals.
  • £7.3 million and £7.8 million respectively through Opportunity Wales and Opportunity Wales Advance for a range of activities and initiatives that have encouraged businesses across Wales to embrace and embed eCommerce
  • A £0.6 million Mobile ICT Awareness-raising Campaign stimulating demand for ICT by raising awareness of the information society and its applications.
  • The £0.3 million Destination Management System that stimulates awareness of and demand for ICT to support to toursim SMEs and support e-trading and e-marketing activities.
  • The £0.4 million SMe-Engage project boosting SME's trading with Welsh public sector organisations by developing their capacity and capabilities to use e-procurement systems.