Carwyn Jones: Wales better off thanks to EU funding
I am committed to obtaining for Wales the best use from EU funds now and in future.
The EU is often a punch bag for parts of our media and the harsh rhetoric can mean we lose sight of the real benefits to our communities.
I have no doubt at all that Welsh communities see real benefits from EU funding.
Look at the Common Agricultural Policy - it pays agricultural businesses in Wales over £350m every year, keeping businesses afloat and thousands of people in work.
This money benefits the wider community economy by filtering money through shops, village pubs and other suppliers of goods and services.
Likewise the Structural Funds make a big contribution to the Welsh economy.
They have been used by partnerships around the country to help people into work and supporting business.
This source of EU funding has been especially helpful during the recent difficult economic climate.
The funds directly support a range of initiatives from research and development and regeneration to helping people who have been out of work gain new skills and find employment.
Look, for example, at the £25m South West Workways Project in Neath Port Talbot which provides work opportunities by matching economically inactive people with local businesses.
Or consider the Growth in Environmental Marine Sciences scheme which has been recognised by the EU for the innovative way it is supporting businesses in North West Wales.
There are many projects like this across Wales doing great work everyday.
Then there is the investment in our green future.
Recently I visited Pembrokeshire to see Wales's first full scale tidal stream energy generator, which thanks to £6.4 million of EU funding will generate clean electricity off the coast of West Wales and create 'green' jobs.
Building on this record, we strongly believe there is a continuing role for European funding in helping us emerge from recession and promote our economy.
The debate has now begun on the future of these funds.
Our view is simple: devolution means we can integrate common European goals into our own tailor-made Welsh policies, and we can also target the funds where they are needed and where they will deliver the greatest economic impact.
We believe that Structural Funds should remain focussed on the poorest EU regions, irrespective of Member State's GDP, and that a fair system of transitional support should be available to regions growing out of Convergence funding.
While everyone's feeling financial pain it would be unrealistic to seek a bigger EU budget, but neither would we want to see a significant reduction.
Just recently Welsh Government Ministers have been in both London and Brussels meeting UK Government Ministers, European Commissioners and MEPs to press our case.
Our voice will continue to be heard loud and clear in Brussels as we seek to make sure our communities continue to benefit from European funding.