The UK is yet to formally leave the EU, and while we remain a Member State, EU policy and legislation still has a huge impact on Welsh local government.
As it remains unclear what kind of exit deal the UK will have, it is crucial that the WLGA continues to closely follow EU policy developments during ‘Brexit’ negotiations. EU legislation may still have a considerable impact for Wales after the UK’s formal exit of the EU, depending on what sort of exit deal is reached.
For this reason, it is vital that the WLGA monitors policy at EU level to feed back to Welsh Councils, and continues to influence EU policy and legislation to ensure it is in the best interest of local government.
Regional/ Cohesion Policy
EU Regional (or Cohesion) Policy is the EU's main investment policy, targeted at all EU regions and cities in order to support job creation, business competitiveness, economic growth, sustainable development, and improve citizens' quality of life. It aims to reduce economic disparities between the EU's regions, ultimately making the EU more globally competitive.
Regional Policy is delivered through three main funds: The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), The Cohesion Fund (CF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). Together with the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), they make up the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF).
Since 2000, Wales has benefited from some £4 billion of EU Structural Funds investment. In the 2014-2020 period, Wales will receive a further £2 billion from these funds to support growth and jobs. Local Government is a key partner in delivering Structural Fund programmes in Wales, which is why the policy behind the funding is a priority for the WLGA EU Team.
Agriculture, Rural Development Policy and Maritime Affairs
Agriculture and Rural Development Policy
The EU’s Rural Development Policy aims to help the rural areas of the EU meet the wide range of economic, environmental and social challenges of the 21st Century.
Often called the “second pillar” of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), it complements the system of direct payments to farmers and measures to manage agricultural markets (the so-called "first pillar").
Wales benefits from around £200m per year in single farm payments to more than 16,000 Welsh farms. In addition, Welsh businesses, rural communities and the countryside benefit from the Welsh Government’s £957m rural development programme, under the EU’s Rural Development Policy.
Wales’ seas and coasts are an important natural resource that contributes significantly to sectors of the Welsh economy such as tourism, alternative energy production, ports and shipping. The EU’s Blue Growth Strategy, and other maritime policies, which cover sectors such as coastal tourism, ocean energy and aquaculture, are therefore a focus for the WLGA EU Team.
Environment, Climate and Energy
EU environmental legislation generally has a significant impact on local government, regulatory, administrative and financial. It’s estimated that as much as 80% of EU environmental legislation affects local authorities in some way, which is why it is a priority for the WLGA EU Team.
The Environment Action Programme to 2020 (7th EAP) 'Living well, within the limits of our planet' guides EU environment policy until 2020 (and sets out a vision up to 2050).
The Life Programme is the EU’s financial instrument for the environment (and climate action).
The EU works across a number of environmental policy areas. The WLGA EU Team has traditionally focused on waste and air quality.
EU waste directives have a direct and significant impact on the way Welsh local authorities deliver waste services. The European Commission has adopted a new Circular Economy Strategy (2015) which includes new legislative proposals on waste.
Air pollution has been one of the EU’s main environmental policy concerns since the late 1970's and is one of the areas in which it has been most active. In 2013, the EU Commission adopted an Air Quality Policy Package, which sets air quality objectives up to 2030. All other EU legislation regarding air quality can be found here.
Climate and energy
The EU's climate and energy targets are set out in the 2020 Climate and Energy Package and the 2030 Climate and Energy Framework. The targets are for Greenhouse Gas emissions, renewable energy, and energy efficiency, and are defined to put the EU on the road towards a low carbon economy as detailed in the 2050 Low-carbon Roadmap.
EU transport policy aims to ensure the smooth, efficient, safe, and free movement of people and goods throughout the EU by means of integrated networks using all modes of transport (road, rail, water and air). It also deals with issues such as climate change and passenger rights. As local government has responsibility for public transport and transport planning, EU transport policy can have implications for Welsh local authorities.
Future policy will be based on the 2011 White Paper Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area- Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system.
A summary of all EU transport legislation is available here.
Under this portfolio, the WLGA EU Team monitors EU policy in areas such as public procurement, data protection and TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), that may have an impact on the way Welsh councils can deliver services.
To create a level playing field for all businesses across Europe, the EU sets harmonised public procurement rules. New EU Procurement rules (adopted in 2014) have now entered in to force across all EU countries (transposition deadline-2016).
The European Commission’s reform of data protection rules in the EU (proposed 2012/adopted) applies to EU countries from May 2018.
The EU is negotiating a trade and investment deal with the US, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The focus for the WLGA EU Team is defending the interests of municipalities and regions in these negotiations.
The recent refugee crisis has undoubted implications for Welsh local authorities, so the WLGA EU Team is monitoring the European Commission’s response closely and liaising with our European local authority network to share information and best practice.
Under this portfolio the WLGA EU Team monitors EU developments in the areas of education, culture, youth and sport, employment and equality.
Education, culture, youth and sport
Whilst Wales is responsible for its own education and training systems, EU policy aims to support national action and help address common challenges (such as such as ageing societies and skills deficits in the workforce). Education and Training 2020 (ET2020) is the EU framework for cooperation in education and training.
As a major employer in Wales, Welsh local government is impacted by EU employment policy and legislation. Specific issues, such as the ongoing review of the The Working Time Directive, could have significant implications for the way councils can employ staff and deliver services.
Fostering gender equality is a founding value and continuing priority of the European Union. As the sphere of governance closest to the people, local authorities represent the level best placed to combat the persistence and reproduction of inequalities.
The Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019 was published in December 2015 as a follow-up and prolongation of the Commission Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015. It sets the framework for the Commission's future work towards improving gender equality.
For more information contact: Lucy Sweet