Wales politics

EC president Barroso understands cuts protest 'anger'

Jose Manuel Barroso at the opening of the Ryder Cup
Image caption Jose Manuel Barroso also praised the assembly government for the way it spent EU grants

The European Commission president says the anger of people who took part in mass protests against public spending cuts "is fully justified".

Jose Manuel Barroso was in Wales for the opening of the Ryder Cup.

He told BBC Politics Show Wales: "What happened was really awful when you see huge bonuses for people working in the financial sector and people now facing unemployment".

Protests against public spending cuts took place in several European cities.

One of the biggest was in Brussels, where unions said 100,000 demonstrators from more than 30 countries marched on European Union buildings.

Mr Barroso said he had met union leaders in Brussels and he expressed some sympathy for them: "I think it's fully justified this anger we feel in the streets of Europe - it is the most vulnerable who are affected most and it was not them who've created this problem".

The EC president said the economic situation was still uncertain, but the position was much better than it was a year ago.

He said the joint action of the European Union, the member states and the European institutions, had avoided a financial catastrophe: "In terms of the growth prospects, we have revised the forecasts upwards and so we believe the joint action taken was very important to avoid what could have been a financial meltdown".

As well as attending the Ryder Cup, Mr Barroso also held meetings with First Minister Carwyn Jones, and the deputy first minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones.

He said the main issue was to get out the current financial situation without repeating what he called "the mistakes of the past" - overspending and huge levels of debt in the public and the private sector.

"The huge level of debt was the root of the crisis," he told the programme.

"We have seen in the United States and in Europe, huge imbalances have provoked this situation. We now have to go for fiscal consolidation and for structural reform.

"I hope, of course, that governments take those decisions having in mind the problems of the workers and the most vulnerable people in our society and trying to keep as much as possible important levels of social inclusion".

'Investment for the future'

President Barroso also praised the Welsh Assembly Government for the way in which EU funds were spent: "It's very well used. I consider Wales one of the most successful regions, in this case a nation, using properly the funding of the EU, in fact you are among the best effective spenders."

He said in this financial period of the EU, £1.8bn was allocated to Wales through structural funds and already £1.4bn had been committed to "concrete projects".

Image caption Demonstrators march down a main street in Brussels

President Barroso said the projects funded by the assembly government were backed by the European Union: "They very fit the priorities we have at a European level - renewal energy, energy efficiency, the greening of the economy, the training of young people and apprenticeships".

He said it was money well spent: "(It's) investment for the future. That point I want to make because sometimes people don't get that message. The money that goes for the European budget is not money for Brussels, it is money for the regions of Europe, for the workers that sometimes have to be retrained.

"The European Union has always been a big supporter of the regional perspective - because the regional governments know better than the national governments where the priorities are".

The current level of structural funding Wales receives from Europe runs out in 2013.

Mr Barroso would not be drawn on what levels of funding Wales could have after that.

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