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EU, China to Cooperate in Regional Policy
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The European Commission (EC) and China will sign a memorandum of understanding that will provide a framework for cooperation in regional policy, EU Commissioner Danuta Hubner told Xinhua on Friday.

The two sides will also hold a two-day seminar in Beijing to exchange experiences during the commissioner's visit to China next week.

"This will be a new area added to those we (the EC and China) already have established recently," said the commissioner.

She said the European Union (EU) side is open to deeper cooperation. Working groups for specific issues might be established should need pops up in the future, she said.

"We believe strongly that instead of protecting ourselves from each other, we should do everything possible to have cooperation."

EU-China cooperation in regional policy will be carried out mainly by Hubner's team and China's National Development and Reform Commission, which is tasked to draw up China's overall development strategies.

China is eager to learn from the outside world as the government has adopted an ambitious plan to narrow down the disparities between its flourishing coastal regions and the vast underdeveloped inner land.

The Chinese government has also vowed to invest heavily to improve the living conditions in its rural areas.

Commissioner Hubner said Europe also faces the same problems of balancing the development of regions and addressing the issue of rural development.

Hubner said the European experience shows that any successful regional policy must be based on a bottom-up approach. The local community should be involved in a way that they can feel ownership of the policy.

She also stressed the importance of a long-term approach and partnerships -- partnerships at different levels and with different communities, such as non-government organizations, business society and academic society.

In terms of rural development, the commissioner said the EC's policy is to "create jobs outside farming within rural areas" so that people do not have to move to urban areas.

She said the EU will invest more to improve infrastructure in rural areas to make them nice places to live.

The EU spends almost one third of its budget in helping its least developed regions in 2006.

The "cohesion funds" traditionally went to Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal. But with the accession of 10 new members from central and eastern Europe in 2004, more funds are needed.

(Xinhua News Agency May 15, 2006)

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