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Paper 5 - 28 January 2000 Meeting

ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES

28 January 2000

EUROPEAN ISSUES

Joint report by the Chief Executives of Hampshire County Council and Havant Borough Council

RECOMMENDATIONS

(1) That the Association works through existing channels to make an input to European regional policy development.

(2) That local twinning links are reviewed to see if they can be better co-ordinated into a sub regional framework.

1. Summary

1.1 This report identifies regional European issues where the Association may wish to consider whether and how it can influence policy to benefit Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. These issues are now framed in the context of the European strategy and agenda for SEEDA and SEERA.

2. Regional perspective

2.1 At the European level, Counties are regarded as regions as they are the level of elected government below the state. Counties, including Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, have been involved in European activity over many years and have taken full advantage of opportunities to influence European regional policy through networks such as the Assembly of European Regions (AER) and the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR). These have offered both access to political activity and lobbying for regional issues and the opportunity to work on partnership projects and exchange experience with regions across Europe within and beyond those of the 15 Member States of the European Union. Hampshire County Council has had a European strategy for many years that reflects its role as a European region.

2.2 The establishment of Regional Development Agencies and Regional Chambers have added a new dimension to local authorities' European activity. SEEDA, in its Regional Economic Strategy (RES), includes a short introductory section on the European dimension and will be developing a European strategy. The RES identifies key issues for the South East in terms of its location, its position as a business gateway to European markets and partnership opportunities in training, research, regeneration and development.

2.3 SEEDA is committed to working with SEERA, and they have set up a Joint Europe Committee (JEC), made up of five Members from each and jointly serviced by SEEDA's European officer and a local authority European officer from the South East European Officers Group.

2.4 SEEDA is also committed to setting up South East representation in Brussels and is in discussions with local authorities that currently have representation as to how these may be brought into partnership, and also with those that do not as to whether they wish to "buy in" to a South East representative office. There are still a range of issues to be worked through including premises, management and functional questions.

2.5 A new funding framework for the European Union comes into place for the period 2000-2006. This is as a result of consultations over the past couple of years on Agenda 2000. The major changes are in the objective status areas and the beginnings of reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, to prepare the way for enlargement. It is not yet clear what the role of SEEDA and GOSE will be in new funding arrangements, but there will be a stronger regional role in some programmes for example the European Social Fund, where programmes will have to be related to the RES.

2.6 This year's European elections have returned, for the first time, a group of 11 South East MEP's. They were elected on a list system and represent the region. There is no longer geographical constituency representation.

2.7 The above framework of changes in regional bodies, funding and representation raise a number of issues where the Association should consider how Hampshire and the Isle of Wight can ensure the particular interests, strengths and issues of this area can be reflected. These are:

- political representation links to MEP's and to regional networks
- input to SEEDA/SEERA JEC
- Brussels representation
- input to management committees where these control funding programmes
- specialist topics such as rural development, environment, skills and training, IT

3. Issues

3.1 Political representation

It is important to keep MEP's informed of issues of importance to the Association where they can lobby on its behalf. South East MEP's are on the following committees of the European Parliament:

Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Defence

- Budget
- Citizens Liberties, Rights, Justice and Home Affairs
- Economic and Monetary Affairs
- Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy
- Employment and Social Affairs
- Fisheries
- Regional Policy Transport and Tourism
- Culture, Youth Education and Media
- Development and Co-operation
- Islands' Intergroup

The Hampshire/Isle of Wight Brussels office produces a regular newsletter to keep MEP's informed of current issues, and the Association can make use of this if it wishes to.

3.2 Hampshire and Isle of Wight will continue to be active members of AER and CPMR, and there may be other networks constituent authorities belong to which could be useful. This provides another route for lobbying on issues and for developing partnerships.

3.3 SEEDA/SEERA JEC

Current membership of the JEC includes Bryan Davies from SEEDA and Councillor Harry Rees from SEERA, both of whom can be useful local contacts. The JEC is advised and supported by the South East European Officers Group, which is regularly attended by officers from Hampshire, Isle of Wight and the two Cities.

3.4 Brussels representation

Hampshire and the Isle of Wight currently have a partnership with Dorset for the Brussels office, and the premises are shared with Basse-Normandie region. These arrangements will continue at least in the short term while SEEDA negotiate on South East representation.

3.5 Funds

Funding opportunities for this area will become more restricted with the new funding framework, and projects will need to be well focused and presented. KONVER, for defence diversification and which has been of considerable benefit to Hampshire, disappears. A bid has been put forward for Hampshire to be designated an eligible area for INTERREG III A to support cross-border, maritime activity with its partner region of Basse-Normandie. The case has been strongly supported by Districts and the Cities and other Hampshire organisation as well as GOSE and MEP's. If successful, this programme would bring significant funds to Hampshire.

3.6 The main source of structural funds will be the European Social Fund (ESF) for skills and training. This will be allocated on the basis of regional plans which will need to link to SEEDA RES. The local authorities currently run a network group for ESF, which Hampshire, Isle of Wight and the Cities attend and it will remain important to input to this group.

3.7 As the new funding framework develops and it becomes clearer how funds are managed and disbursed at a regional level, there may be a need to consider whether and how this area can best be represented on any management committees that are set up.

3.8 Specialist topics

There are a number of specialist areas where Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have expertise and experience that should be used to contribute to European policy development for example rural development and the opportunities for new activity under LEADER+. Currently this work is being pursued through the Committee for Rural Hampshire and links with MAFF. Environmental issues are clearly important to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. The New Forest is currently benefiting from funds from the LIFE environmental programme and work is also underway on developing bio-diversity indicators with EU funded support. This work should provide experience and expertise that can be disseminated to inform best practice and future policy. Hampshire has been particularly successful in attracting funds for IT/telematics projects eg ROMANSE, TourISt INFOVILLe projects which support the EU's Information Society policy development. Again, these provide models for other regions to learn from.

3.9 The Isle of Wight has received substantial funding under the LIFE programme for two projects carried out by the Coastal Management Unit. One of these was a pilot project on Coastal Management, the results of which are being fed into the 5th Environmental Action Plan and will thereby influence European environmental policy.

4. Conclusion

4.1 This report has tried to identify European issues on a regional basis where the Association needs to keep informed and where it can influence policy development. It is clear that there are existing channels of communication both at Member and officer level where Hampshire and the Isle of Wight authorities make a contribution.

4.2 The report has not addressed more local issues of projects and partnerships twinning and other links which make a contribution to local economies, raise direct local awareness of European issues and provide grassroots examples of European activity. It may be worth looking at these local links to see if they can be put into a more coherent sub regional framework, to add value to their activities.

PETER ROBERTSON
Chief Executive, Hampshire County Council

ROBIN SMITH
Chief Executive, Havant Borough Council

Date: 12 January 2000
Annex: 0
Contact: Jill Lovelock - (01962) 841841 ext 7591

Last update: 25/09/2000
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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