Memorandum from the Wales European Centre
1.1 The Wales European Centre is pleased
to be invited to submit evidence to the Welsh Affairs Committee.
This memorandum sets out to explain the role of the Centre in
promoting Wales in Europe and how this links to activities by
other Welsh and UK bodies.
2.1 The Wales European Centre has had a
presence in Brussels since 1992. Set up originally by the Welsh
Development Agency and Welsh Local Government, the partnership
which contributes to the Centre has grown to over 70 public bodies
in Wales. Since 1998, when the Centre became a company limited
by guarantee, the sponsors who made up the partnership have been
members of the WEC. The Centre is run by a Board of Directors
composed of three Directors appointed by each of, the WDA, WLGA,
and the National Assembly for Wales, four Directors appointed
from the other members and the Managing Director.
2.2 Devolution has had a profound impact
on the Wales European Centre. The creation of the National Assembly
for Wales has provided the impetus, the rationale and the means
for a transformation in the organisation. The decision of the
National Assembly for Wales to join the Wales European Centre
has demanded an expansion in the organisation. New premises not
only provide space for the expansion but they also provide a more
visible, high profile presence in Brussels. A new business plan
has refocused the organisation on its mission and outputs. Staff
reorganisation provides the means for delivering the business
plan. The new corporate image and new logo signal the changes
with an image which is contemporary, dynamic and in tune with
2.3 Unchanged, however, is the Team Wales
approach, where the Centre works for the benefit of a partnership
of public organisations.
2.4 Finally, the Wales European Centre provides
a base for the National Assembly for Wales's own Brussels Office.
3.1 The purpose of the Wales European Centre
is the promotion of Wales in the European Union in particular
to the institutions of the EU, but also through the development
of relationships with regions of the EU and countries applying
for membership of the EU.
3.2 This purpose is expressed in our mission
statement"to give Wales an edge in Europe". Our
activities towards the achievement of this purpose are:
providing information and intelligence
on funding opportunities on relevant policy developments;
presenting Welsh needs and proposals
to relevant EU institutions;
raising the profile of Wales in Brussels;
encouraging and assisting in creasing
strategic transnational partnerships.
4.1 A major part of the work of the Centre
is in protecting Welsh interests in the legislative and policymaking
processes of the EU. This involves:
in consultation with the partnership,
identifying annually a list of major items on which active lobbying
will take place and a list of items which will be monitored;
for individual items on the active
lobbying list, and approach to the Commission may be made at an
early stage in order to influence a proposal at its inception;
following publication of the Commission
document, WEC will inform the relevant partner organisations and
produce, in consultation with them, a position paper;
at this point WEC may assist the
Welsh partnership with their lobbying efforts by arranging delegations
from Wales to meet with relevant Brussels policymakers;
it may be possible to secure Welsh
or UK rapporteurs on priority items being dealt with in Parliament
WEC will alert relevant members of
the Welsh partnership at critical points in the legislative process;
WEC will advise on amendments to
the Parliament's Opinion and make appropriate contacts with MEPs
and EU officials as necessary.
4.2 This work requires an effective relationship
with UK Rep. The Centre values the regular briefings provided
by UK Rep and the good relationship between desk officers and
the Centre's policy managers. The National Assembly for Wales's
office has a direct relationship with UK Rep, as its staff are
formally accredited as part of the representation.
5.1 The Wales European Centre works with
a variety of partners in promoting Wales in Europe; the majority
of whom are Welsh bodies. The UK bodies with which the Centre
has most contact are the UK Permanent Representation to the EU,
the bilateral embassy to Belgium, the British council and the
5.2 The Centre is particularly grateful
for the interest taken in its activities by the Welsh Office and
the support shown by the Secretary of State for Wales.
5.3 In the case of the Welsh bodies, most
of these are members of the Centre and the relationship is largely
focused on the promotion of their interests in the European policy
and funding questions. For example, although the Wales Tourist
Board is one of our members and we are alert to their interest
in EU programmes which affect tourism, the Centre plays no part
in the promotion of tourism in Brussels.
5.4 The aim of raising the profile of Wales
in Brussels is achieved with the support of both member bodies
and other organisations. The main focus for this is the annual
Welsh Week around St David's Day. Key partners are the WDA, the
National Assembly for Wales, the Arts Council Wales and the British
5.5 For the WDA Wales Week provides an opportunity
for its food promotion activities, and its general marketing.
(Last year the WDA provided a supplement in a European weekly
to coincide with St David's Day.) For the Arts Council and the
British Council the week provides an opportunity to draw attention
to Welsh visual and performing artists.
5.6 The overall impact of the week and similar
events at other times of the year is to change perceptions of
Wales held by key Brussels decision makers and so change the relationship
between Wales and Brussels. The aim is to move beyond being a
supplicant for EU funding to being a partner in policymaking.
5.7 Despite past involvements, the British
Council programme this year has had little Welsh involvement or
representation. We understand that the British Council in Brussels
and the British Council as a whole is reviewing its operations.
This has meant a hiatus in programming and planning. It has been
unfortunate that this has meant there is unlikely to be joint
projects in this financial year. It is also unfortunate that,
with the exception of an introductory meeting, there has been
no formal consultations with Wales European Centre in the future
of the British Council in Brussels and Luxembourg despite, we
understand, some quite fundamental changes. We hope that the review
will not mean that the Wales interests are undermined by default
or that the distinctive Wales contribution to the British context
could be lost.
6.1 The Centre's role in the commercial
promotion is limited. However, a particular focus of work which
involves the private sector lies in building relationships with
regions of those states applying for membership of the EU. The
Centre is in the process of developing a strategy, with the partnership,
to ensure that Wales can take advantage of the benefits of EU
enlargement. A consultation process has just come to a close and
a strategy will be launched in the early part of next year.
6.2 As part of the consultation initial
contacts have been established with the Department of Trade and
Industry. These contacts have been encouraging and we hope to
develop a productive relationship both in finalising the strategy
and in its implementation.
7.1 Wales in the world is a timely subject
for investigation and the Wales European Centre is pleased to
be asked to contribute evidence.
7.2 The majority of bodies with which the
centre co-operates are Welsh organisations, many of whom are members
of the Centre.
7.3 The Centre benefits from effective co-operation
and support from a variety of bodies and are particularly happy
to have the support of the Secretary of State for Wales.
7.4 We have found the British Council a
helpful partner in the past but are concerned that recent changes
could lessen the specifically Welsh dimension of their work.
7.5 We are looking forward to collaboration
with the DTI, as well as our members who have responsibilities
in the fields of trade promotion and inward investment in our
future work with applicant states.