Wednesday, 25 February 2004

Questions (146, 147, 148)

Olwyn Enright

Question:

233 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the new LIFE regulation will be adopted at EU level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6197/04]

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Olwyn Enright

Question:

234 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he expects the LIFE budget for 2005 and 2006 to be increased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6198/04]

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Olwyn Enright

Question:

235 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will seek a general exemption for small NGOs from the requirement to provide a bank guarantee when applying for LIFE co-financing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6199/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 to 235, inclusive, together.

In November 2003, the European Commission published a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council amending Regulation (EC) No. 1655/2000 concerning the financial instrument for the environment, LIFE.

The key aims of the proposal are to extend the third phase of LIFE until 31 December 2006; bridge the gap between the expiry of the current regime and the new post-2006 financial perspectives; make LIFE consistent with the 6th Environmental Action Programme and Regulation (EC) No. 1605/2002 on the financial regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Communities; and amend the comitology provisions to substitute the management committee procedure for the regulatory one in light of the European Court of Justice's judgement of 21 January 2003.

The Irish Presidency is consulting with EU member states and acceding state representatives and with the European Parliament's rapporteur and chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy with a view to reaching a first reading agreement to avoid any significant delay in the funding of projects in 2005. I believe there are good prospects for reaching such an agreement. Consequently, I anticipate adoption of the new regulation before the dissolution of Parliament in May.

As the principal aim of the proposal is to extend the third phase of LIFE until 31 December 2006, pending the post-2006 financial perspectives, specific substantive changes to operational aspects of the regulation are not envisaged. The proposals include a limited increase in funding for accompanying measures to allow for improvement in dissemination and monitoring activities.