Commissioner praises Cornwall's Objective One Programme
European Commissioner Michel Barnier today praised the Objective One Programme for Cornwall and Scilly, saying it was delivering high quality projects and had acted as a catalyst for positive change.
Mr Barnier was speaking at a one-day conference in Plymouth held to discuss the impact European Union enlargement is likely to have on structural funding programmes like Objective One in Cornwall and Objective Two in Devon.
From 2006, when the current funding programmes end, membership of the EU is likely to increase from 15 to 25 members, with many poorer states being admitted.
The Commissioner, who is responsible for European Regional Policy, said: “I was very interested and pleased to hear the extent of the leverage effect of Objective One in Cornwall. It’s not just money but cultural, mental and psychological, bringing people together and getting the private sector and the public sector to listen and involve people. In terms of governance and state of mind, there is a leverage effect.”
Alan Johnson, UK Minister for the Regions, also addressed the conference and agreed with Mr Barnier’s comments. He said: “Objective One in Cornwall has acted as a catalyst to bring people together around the same table to develop a cohesive policy.”
Asked what impact EU enlargement could have on future funding programmes, Mr Barnier said he thought Cornwall would benefit from European aid until at least 2010, possibly including another round of Objective One funding.
He said: “Cornwall, as it looks today, appears to be in a position where it could be eligible as an Objective One region after 2006, but it’s too early to give a definitive answer.
“There are four Objective One regions in the UK and as it looks today, three will no longer be eligible (after 2006). They will go into other categories of aid including what we call phased out assistance. Cornwall will probably be eligible when the eligibility threshold is recalculated with an extra ten membership states.”
Mr Barnier was at pains to stress that if Cornwall qualified again for Objective One status that was not because the current programme was underperforming, but because Cornwall had started from such a low economic base.
“The projects under Objective One in Cornwall are good quality projects, like the university, and are creating a leverage effect. It is not a question of quality of the projects, it’s a question of what was the point of departure for Cornwall before Objective One.”
Mr Barnier added that any decision on another round of Objective One would be based on GDP per head, and these figures are always at least two years behind the true position because of the way they are calculated.
“When we come to 2006 we will be examining the position with statistics that will be from 2004. The statistics do not change rapidly,” he said.
Objective One programme director Bill Bawden said: “Mr Barnier was impressed with the progress we have made and clearly believes that further long-term investment from Europe is likely to help us build on what has already been achieved.
“Whether that means another round of Objective One remains to be seen, but at the very least I would expect us to attract transitional funding over a number of years because the economy cannot be transformed overnight, and Europe recognises that.”
The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has 261 projects now approved, worth £339 million in total. The programme began two years ago, making around £314 million of European funding available until 2006 to help regenerate the Cornish economy.
Objective One Partnership Office
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