The Commission points to the creation of a number of small businesses through money made available to the UK under Objective 2 of the Structural Funds.The European Regional Development Fund has, it claims, contributed to the conservation of historic buildings, while the Leader programme has assisted interregional cultural cooperation in rural areas. EU aid for the development of the Temple Bar area of Dublin has also helped it to become one of the city’s most visited sites. A paper to be discussed by regional affairs ministers this weekend points to culture as a major asset and suggests ways in which EU funding could be better targeted to tap into potential growth opportunities.The Commission will call on member states to propose innovative and commercially-based measures going well beyond conventional assistance to culture, although it will warn these must be carefully evaluated to assess their potential to create jobs in a cost-effective way.It suggests extending assistance to culture into EU urban and rural policies and adding an extra cultural dimension to the tourism industry, particularly in an era of increasing leisure time and with the service industries accounting for a growing proportion of European jobs.
At an informal working dinner in Bonn last week, Chirac and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl decided to step up bilateral military planning and launch a convergence process between France and Germany’s military structures.The two leaders agreed to aim for substantial progress on this issue as early as the next Franco-German summit, to be held on 5 June in Dijon.The initiative was announced after weeks of grumbling in Bonn over the lack of consultation prior to Chirac’s announcement that France was to engage upon a major overhaul of its defence, which included the scrapping of compulsory military service and making deep cuts in its armament programmes. But Chirac has convinced observers in Germany and France of his determination to make cooperation with Bonn the pivot of France’s foreign and European policy. Chirac’s decision took German defence circles largely by surprise and angered both the government and industry. German Defence Minister Volker Rühe showed his irritation over the lack of warning about the decision to scrap the draft, which triggered a debate in Germany for which Bonn was not prepared.Germany’s hard-pressed defence industry voiced fears that a reduction in French military spending would endanger a number of cooperation programmes and threaten their profitability.During their talks, Chirac and Kohl also discussed the Intergovernmental Conference, the EU summit on 21 June, and the G7 meeting in Lyon in July.The two leaders also agreed to work towards a resolution of the Franco-German dispute over the liberalisation of Europe’s electricity market which is holding up agreement on the issue. Bonn wants to introduce a large measure of competition, while Paris is keen to preserve the position of its state-run monopoly Electricité de France (EDF).In another show of their determination to avoid future irritations due to miscommunication, Kohl and Chirac agreed to meet roughly every six weeks, including meetings at multilateral summits.The run-up to and the outcome of the Bonn meeting are characteristic of the way in which Franco-German ties have evolved since Chirac’s election to the presidency a year ago. The French president’s taste for spontaneous action and decision-making without prior consultation, politically justified as part of the Gaullist presidential tradition, often irritates his German partners.