The EU funding which is allocated to the Rural Broadband Scheme, which is the responsibility of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, is provided under the European Economic Recovery Package (EERP). The EERP funding must be used for measures aimed at addressing new challenges which include climate change, biodiversity and water quality. All funding options for an Agri-environmental Options Scheme (AEOS) are being considered at present.
The reallocation of EERP funding to AEOS is also dependent on the provision of national matching funding for that scheme. I am actively considering the possibility of re-opening AEOS to allow for the submission of applications either on an amended basis from the existing scheme and/or on a limited scale, including the possibility of re-opening for applications later in the year. The full year cost of any new scheme will have to be met in 2013 and any decision to re-open AEOS will be taken in the context of consideration of the resources available and the need to remain within the agreed expenditure ceiling for my Department in 2013. I will make an announcement as soon as I have reached a decision on the situation.