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EU Commissioner confident North East won't lose euromillions

Richard Moss | 15:16 UK time, Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Johannes Hahn

EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn came to Newcastle to talk about European funding.

There's been a lot said in recent months - by me amongst others - about the North East missing out on up to £180m of European grants.

It's money from the European Regional Development Fund which is designed to create jobs and help the local economy.

But any company or organisation getting a grant needs to match that money to release it.

In the past, much of that so-called "match funding" has come from councils and the regional development agency One North East.

With public sector funding much harder to find because of cuts, and regional development agencies facing abolition, those sources are not as plentiful.

And so there has been concern from Labour, and amongst some figures in business, that without matching funding companies will not be able to release much of £180m. The North East will then lose out on vital jobs.

I spent some time at the European Parliament in Strasbourg last month investigating the story. What I ended up with was claim and counter-claim, with some anecdotal evidence that some firms were struggling to find funding.

So it was with interest, I went to a news conference with the EU's Regional Policy Commissioner in Newcastle.

Johannes Hahn has been in the city for the last two days to attend a regional studies conference at the University.

European Parliament in Strasbourg

Concern about the fate of the North East's grants had spread to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

So was he concerned that EU money was likely to go unspent in the North East?

The answer - a resounding no.

Instead he was confident that the money would be spent, and he didn't anticipate the North East would lose out on any of that £180m.

He said 78% of the funding was already committed, and with two years of the current programme to go, he did not believe there would be a problem finding a home for the rest of the money.

Mr Hahn said the UK had done well to find private sector sources of match funding.

Perhaps then he would be worried by the UK Government's decision to abolish the regional structures that have overseen European grants in the past - the regional development agencies and civil servants?

Again, he didn't seem unduly concerned.

He did describe the changes as "interesting" and "an experiment" but did not anticipate a huge problem.

He has had meetings with government ministers to talk about when they will have a replacement system in place.

But he said that as long as that structure was up and running by July this year, there should be no problem. He has no reason to believe that won't be the case.

That left quite a few disgruntled journalists, as tension between the EU Commissioner and the UK government would have made good copy.

It might also put the row about EU funding to bed for now.

It's possible the Commissioner may be proved wrong, but to date tjere seems to be little concrete evidence that the North East will miss out on a large slice of its European funding.


  • Comment number 1.

    Go on then. - Name one organization that was in receipt of a grant to start up or expand and is still going strong two years after the grants have stopped.

    No doubt there are plenty of organizations going strong that are still supported by grants. But that is not what grants are for. Or is it?

    Oh and if their customers are supported by grants I consider them to be funded, albeit at arms length.

    Is Nissan still funded? Owned 40% by the French government so I would count Nissan as a state run company.


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