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Top Brussels bureaucrat visit

EU regional policy commissioner Johannes Hahn

RENEWED efforts to reverse Europe’s decision to cut regional aid to Shetland continue next week with a visit from the top Brussels bureaucrat involved in the issue.

European regional policy commissioner Johannes Hahn has added Shetland to his list of places to visit during his tour of Scotland, following an invitation from council leader Gary Robinson.

In June the European Union resolved to separate Shetland from the rest of the highlands and islands and put it in the same bracket as cities like London, Paris and Rome for regional aid.

Council delegations to Brussels to campaign against the move, which was based on Shetland’s strong economy and low unemployment, failed.

Robinson said the EU was not paying enough attention to Shetland’s remote situation by ignoring important factors such as distance from markets, the high cost of living and the fact that it costs much more per head of population to provide public services.

Robinson said he would use Hahn’s visit to show him the range of projects that have received EU funds in Shetland.

Hahn added: “I want to see for myself on the ground the excellent use that I know is already being made of EU structural funds in Scotland.

“During my time here I will be meeting with key players and representatives at national and local level.

“Crucially I will be seeing some of the projects that demonstrate the dynamism at play in Shetland.

“There are big changes ahead and this is a crucial time as far as planning for the next seven years is concerned.

“Our reforms of EU regional policy will help ensure that the funds are invested with more focus than ever before, with more strategy focus, while making the most of every region and every communities particular assets and strengths.

“This should all be aimed at improving the competitiveness of Scotland’s regions and cities but most importantly the well-being of its communities.”