Mr Patrick O’Donovan, T.D. Minister of State at the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, with special responsibility for Public Procurement, Open Government and eGovernment attended the General Affairs Council (Cohesion) meeting in Luxembourg today.

This meeting, under the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, was a strategic discussion of the priorities for Cohesion Policy post-2020.  This is in advance of the forthcoming announcements by the Commission on the new EU budget package.

Speaking at the meeting, Minister O’Donovan acknowledged that Ireland benefitted significantly from Cohesion Policy in the past, and reiterated that Ireland continues to highly value Cohesion Policy as an important tool to stimulate economic growth, promote social cohesion and to reduce disparities between the regions of the EU. He stated that ‘it is important to continue to support and assist all regions, and, in particular the less developed regions of the EU’.

He also expressed his view that now is an opportune time “to examine how Cohesion Policy can be more efficient” and that it was “incumbent upon all of us to ensure that value for money is obtained”. He strongly stressed the need for further simplification of the regulations governing the eligibility and payment of Structural Funds, the need for differentiation and for greater flexibility.

Mr O’Donovan said that “we must be ambitious for the future. Our post 2020 priorities must drive and underpin EU competitiveness and growth in an increasingly competitive global stage. The EU, as a cohesive, more prosperous and cutting edge Global Economic force is better placed to face both existing and new challenges such as Brexit, migration, security and climate change.”

The Minister also took the opportunity to hold bilateral meetings with two of his counterparts:

  • Mr Sampo Terho, the Finnish Minister for European Affairs
  • The Rt. Hon. Lord Henley, UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Commenting on the bilateral meetings with Minister Terho, Minister O’Donovan said “Finland assumes the EU Presidency in the second half of 2019.  As well as discussing Cohesion Policy post 2020 we reflected on the close relationship which Ireland enjoys with our Nordic Baltic partners, including Finland, with whom we share a number of common positions.”

Following his meeting with Lord Henley, Minister O’ Donovan said “I took the opportunity of our meeting to underline the importance the Irish Government attaches to European Territorial Cooperation programmes funded by the European Union.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

The Budget for Cohesion Policy in 2014 – 2020 at an EU level amounted to €352bn, or one third of the total EU Budget. It is an important tool to stimulate economic growth and promote social cohesion, and it is seen as a concrete demonstration of European solidarity, as it ensures the benefits of increased economic activity are more equally shared.

Under this policy Ireland was allocated approximately €1.2 billion of Structural Funds for the period 2014-2020, which is broken down as follows:

  • €545 million for a national ESF Programme;
  • €411 million for ERDF co-funded programmes;
  • €68m for the Youth Employment Initiative, which will be programmed through the ESF programme; and
  • €169 million for European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) programmes.

The funding is being used to support a range of projects across the country, including:

  • Providing training places for unemployed people and job-seekers, with particular programmes for younger unemployed people;
  • Assisting disadvantaged and disabled students  accessing University;
  • Supporting Adult Literacy programmes;
  • Assisting young people in difficulty through Garda Youth Diversion Projects;
  • Providing high speed broadband to over 300,000 homes across Ireland;
  • Supporting microenterprises in every county of Ireland,  which will create over 20,500 new jobs;
  • Funding research programmes that underpin collaboration between our Universities and Multinationals, creating future clusters of excellence;
  • Protecting the environment and natural habitat;
  • Investing both in physical assets and in knowledge transfer