Wales joins the Basque Country's network of Strategic Partnerships alonside other prominent regions
- First Ministers of Wales and the Basque Country sign a partnership agreement covering economic, social and mobility areas
- Wales, the Basque Country, Brussels-Capital, Flanders, Navarre, Piemonte and Salzburg have called on the European Commission to strengthen the role of regions with legislative powers and national realities
On the second day of his official visit to Wales, Mr Iñigo Urkullu the Basque First Minister (Lehendakari) met his Welsh counterpart, Carwyn Jones, with whom he signed a Memorandum of Understanding. Wales thus joins the Network of Strategic Partnerships being developed by the Basque Country, along with other prominent regions. Under the agreement, the two parties aim to deepen bilateral relations in areas such as transport infrastructures, innovation, marine energy, the agrifood industry, education, fiscal policy, social policies and climate change.
Together with five other regional governments, the Basque Country and Wales have submitted a formal recommendation to the European Commission calling on it to strengthen the role of regions with legislative powers and their own national realities.
Joining Mr Urkullu at the meeting in the Welsh National Assembly building in Cardiff, were Arantxa Tapia, Basque Regional Minister for Economic Development and Infrastructures and Marian Elorza, Secretary General for Overseas Action. The meeting concluded with the signing of the agreement by the two First Ministers. The Lehendakari highlighted the importance of the pact, which brings structure to a partnership that has been developing over recent years.
Mr Urkullu said that despite the challenges and uncertainties brought about by Brexit, it is important to analyse new opportunities. This agreement opens up new avenues for partnerships in areas such as fiscal policy, training and education, technology, the environment and climate change, marine energy and mobility, transport and health infrastructures. Further exchanges are also planned in the field of culture and language policy. “Our idea is to develop this partnership gradually, starting by getting to know each other better and looking for complementary areas in which we can make further progress”, added the Lehendakari.
RECOMMENDATION TO THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION
Wales and the Basque Country also share the ambition of greater collaboration in Europe. Wales, the Basque Country, Brussels-Capital, Flanders, Navarre, Piemonte and Salzburg have submitted a formal proposal to the European Commission, calling on it to strengthen the role of regions with legislative powers and national realities. As the Basque first minister explained, the seven regional governments have called on the European Commission to "adopt the necessary decisions to introduce an effective model of multi-level governance”. Specifically, he proposed establishing a convention on multi-level governance that takes up the findings of the European Commission’s task force on subsidiarity; particularly the Lamassoure report on the figure of the Associate/Partner Region. This idea was already set out in the Vision for Europe document, presented in March this year.
NETWORK OF STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS: WALES
The Basque Framework Strategy for Internationalisation to 2020 identifies Wales are one of its strategic partners — because of its geographical proximity, because of the multi-sectoral ties between the two countries and because it is a territory with a strong local identity. Under the agreement, Wales will now join the Basque Country's Network of Strategic Partners, which includes seven other regions across the world: Quebec, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Bavaria, Flanders, Querétaro, Jiangtsu and Cundinamarca.
Wales is a nation with a population of 3.1 million and a land area of 20,782 square kilometres (8,024 square miles). Key priorities of the Welsh government's national strategy for greater prosperity include: industry, innovation, mobility and transport infrastructures, social and work-life balance policies and tax issues. The Welsh Finance Ministry (created in 2016) began to levy its own taxes in April 2018 and the government has shown an interest in learning more about the way in which the Basque Country manages and operates its own Economic Agreement.
MEETING WITH THE SPEAKER OF THE ASSEMBLY
Before meeting and signing the agreement with the First Minister, the Lehendakari also met the Speaker of the Welsh Assembly, Elin Jones. As well as explaining the workings of the assembly, Ms Jones gave the delegation a tour of the building, highlighting some of its architectural features.
Finally, the Basque First Minister held a working meeting with representatives of the different parties at the Assembly.