Plaid Cymru has called for Wales to play a positive, prominent role in the EU, maximising the advantages of European Union membership, following the UK Prime Minister's speech on Europe.
A report published recently by Plaid MEP Jill Evans showed that Wales is a net beneficiary of EU membership, getting more out of Europe than we pay in by an average £40 a year per person. Wales has also been able to access structural funding to create jobs and build the economy in our poorest areas, as well as substantial agricultural support which is crucial for farmers and rural Wales.
But the Party of Wales has warned that these benefits are being put at risk by proposals from the two big London based parties as the UK Prime Minister makes a major speech on Europe today.
Significantly, both parties are calling for an end to EU regional policy. Wales has received more than 2 billion pounds in EU structural funding over the past seven years in addition to the many other forms of financial support for example, for students, fisheries and small businesses.
Following the UK Prime Minister's speech, Plaid MEP Jill Evans said:
"We want to see a vibrant, prosperous Wales working in partnership with other European Union nations. The other parties are playing political games which could have disastrous consequences. Only Plaid Cymru is working for the Welsh national interest.
"We in Wales need EU funding to strengthen our economy, develop our infrastructure and create much needed jobs in our poorest areas. Our economy is weak because of successive UK government policies. With its aim of cohesion and its policy of redistributing wealth, the EU is helping us overcome some of the problems.
"In addition to that, hundreds of individuals and organisations have been helped by the Social Fund. Losing that support would be a major step backwards. Central to Wales's future is a positive and productive partnership with a European Union that provides support to its poorest areas, protects workers and encourages innovation and ambition. It is crucial that isn't destroyed by London. But if the UK parties are determined to repatriate powers from the EU, we will demand that they are transferred to Wales."
Talking about the need to reform the EU so that people in Wales and across Europe get the maximum benefit, Ms Evans said:
"We strongly support continuing membership of the EU but we have always been critical of the way it works.
"We have long campaigned for EU reform and we have made progress in some directions, such as more powers for the elected European Parliament and more openness in the Council of Ministers. There are many other changes we would like to make, such as scrapping some of the wasteful projects like the House of European History museum which will cost €52 million and €13.5 million a year to run, and ending the monthly move between Brussels and Strasbourg which costs another €180 million annually.
"This month we called on the new Irish EU presidency to take action on tax avoidance which deprives EU governments of €1 trillion in revenue every year. This would be better than giving priority to austerity measures which hit the weakest members of society hardest. We have also called on the UK government to support the EU Financial Transaction Tax which could raise £45 billion annually and which nine member states are adopting now. We know what the advantages would be to Wales as a member state in its own right, and until that time we are working for greater recognition and representation.
"What we need is an honest and open discussion on the future of Wales within the EU so that the people of Wales can decide on their own future. What we have now are parties trying to outdo one another in Euroscepticism and ignoring what is in the interests of Wales."