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Written Answers - EU Funding

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 754 No. 3

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 201.  Deputy John Lyons Information on John Lyons Zoom on John Lyons  asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin  the measures he plans to take to access the unspent and unallocated structural and social fund identified at the recent EU summit; and the options he has considered to match any additional funding that may become available [6883/12]

 202.  Deputy John Lyons Information on John Lyons Zoom on John Lyons  asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin  if he has considered accessing the unspent and unallocated structural and social funds identified at the recent EU summit for the purpose of financing measures for job creation, in particular measures to tackle youth employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6884/12]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I propose to take Questions Nos. 201 and 202 together.

Following the informal European Council meeting on 30th January, EU Commission President Barroso has launched a special initiative to boost growth and tackle the problem of youth unemployment.

The Commission will work with the eight Member States with the highest youth unemployment rates to develop a plan which could use unallocated structural funds to strengthen national programmes. The Commission will be promoting a plan in each Member State with measures to deal with youth employment and strengthen support schemes for SMEs. President Barroso envisages that the funding would come from existing unallocated EU funds and from any available national funding, from either public or private sources.

Ireland has been allocated a total of €901m in EU Structural Funding for the period 2007-13. Of this, €750 million is assigned to the Regional Competitiveness and Employment (RCE) objective, and the balance to Territorial Co-operation programmes, including the PEACE III (Ireland/NI), INTERREG IVA (Ireland/NI and Western Scotland) and the Ireland Wales Programme. The RCE objective is being delivered through three operational programmes, the National ESF Human Capital Investment OP, managed by the Department of Education and Skills, and the Border Midland and Western (BMW) and Southern and Eastern Regional ERDF (S&E) OPs, managed by the BMW and S&E Regional Assemblies. The general programme priorities in Ireland are the promotion and encouragement of innovation, the knowledge economy, enterprise, research and development, up-skilling the workforce and increasing the participation of groups outside the workforce.

It is expected that the overall objectives of each programme will be achieved and that Ireland will drawdown the funding we have been allocated. At present, Ireland has no unallocated Structural Funds. Recent Commission figures show that Ireland has the highest Cohesion absorption rate in the EU at 48% for the current 2007-2013 Structural and Cohesion funding round and it is estimated that the remaining 52% allocated to Ireland will be drawn down.

I strongly welcome President Barroso’s initiative. I and other members of the Government will be working closely with the EU Commission.

As there are no unused Structural and Cohesion funds available for Ireland at present, we will, in the first instance, be looking at whether employment programmes might be re-focused to better effect. If, at a later stage, additional EU funding becomes available, Ireland will make the necessary application.

[410]Dealing with unemployment is the major priority for the Government and this is an initiative which must be utilized to maximum effect.


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