Page last updated at 06:19 GMT, Monday, 18 May 2009 07:19 UK

So what's Europe done for Wales?

A pound coin on a pile of Euro coins
Wales will have received up to 3.2bn in EU regional funding by 2013

As the European elections on 4 June loom large, Phil Parry assesses the impact the EU has had on Wales.


Show us the money. That could be what is uppermost in the minds of many voters when the issue of the European Union is raised.

Or there is that blue European Union sign on building projects with words like "this scheme has been part-financed with European funding".

In fact, there is a lot more to how Wales has felt the effect of laws shaped by the European parliament.

Areas like the environment, communication and anti-terror strategy are never going to be confined to Wales or Westminster politicians alone.

Supporters of the European Parliament point to that as a critical reason to vote on 4 June, and that it shouldn't only be a referendum on the popularity of the government in Westminster.

So let's get to the money side.

According to the Foreign Office, the UK's net contribution to the EU was £3.9bn in 2006 - money raised through taxes here.

As a wealthier member of the EU the United Kingdom pays more than it gets back.

But in Wales quite a bit comes back.

A total of £1.9bn of EU finding is available for regeneration schemes in Wales in a programme which began in 2007 and runs until 2013.

And more than a third of this cash has been committed so far, nearly £700m.

When you combine the cash from Europe with funds from other bodies like the Welsh Assembly Government it comes to about £1.4bn, according to the Welsh European Funding Office (Wefo).

So what does that mean for jobs in Wales?

More than 28,000 businesses have been supported, according to Wefo, bringing 270,000 people into work and training.

How has that money been spent?

Nearly a third of the EU money committed so far - that's £350m - is designed to help make businesses more competitive, that's with new equipment and training.

Then there is the favourite European theme of the environment - how much has been spent on that?

Projects to improve the environment, transport and regenerate areas have benefited to the tune of £115m.

Woman using mobile phone
The cost of using mobile phones in other EU countries has been cut

The schemes range from training women in construction to providing grants for a film-making company to buy more equipment.

All very well, of course, but in this global economic down-turn and with unemployment figures rising remorselessly how are people in Wales being helped by the EU?

The assembly government's £35m ReAct scheme to support more than 12,000 workers moving from redundancy into new employment or training is almost half-funded by European money.

Politicians argue over how effectively this is being spent, or whether the process of applying involves far too much paper work.

But there is no doubt that millions of euros have come to Wales from Brussels.

What about those other areas affecting Wales?

The EU package on climate change is the result of complex negotiations and intensive lobbying.

It sets the target of a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, compared with 1990 levels.

The "roaming regulation" of 2007 limits how much mobile phone operators can charge customers for calls in other EU countries.

The same year saw a law on chemicals put the responsibility on business to show that the chemicals they use are safe, this was the Reach regulation (standing for Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation - you can't get away from the jargon I'm afraid).

There are a fair number of areas influenced by the European Parliament that affect Wales, as everywhere else.

It is certain that with the enlargement of the EU to 27 members, Wales will see its funding from Europe cut in the coming years.

Even so, it could still be the amount of European cash coming to Wales that will most occupy voters' minds.

In other words - show us the money.




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