As part of a State Aid Modernisation initiative currently being undertaken by the EU Commission a number of instruments are being reviewed in parallel, including, in particular, Guidelines on Regional Aid, Environmental Aid, Risk Capital, Research Development and Innovation, Broadband Guidelines and Aviation Guidelines. Of major importance from an Irish perspective is the revision of the Regional Aid Guidelines. The purpose of Regional Aid is to support investment and job creation and encourage firms to set up new establishments in Europe's most disadvantaged regions.
The process of Member States agreeing the 2014-2021 Regional Aid Guidelines is underway and multilateral discussions between Member States and the Commission, which has responsibility for the Regional Aid Guidelines, have taken place. This initiative is Commission led, and my Department is actively engaged in the process and has consulted relevant stakeholders including various Government Departments, the industrial development agencies, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Forfás, the Central Statistics Office, the Border Midland and Western Regional Assembly, the Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly, and the eight Regional Authorities to ensure the preparation and submission of a comprehensive evidence based Irish position on the key issues.
The Commission issued a non-paper of its initial orientations in December 2011, which was followed by a multilateral meeting in March 2012. The Commission subsequently forwarded further proposals to Member States on 14 January 2013, documenting the structure and provisions that will form the basis of the revised Guidelines. These proposals were also discussed at a multilateral meeting on 11 and 12 of February.
I met with Commissioner Almunia to discuss the issue of State Aids on the margins of the Competitiveness Council (Industry) on Monday 10 December 2012 and Minister Sherlock also raised this issue with Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn at the Competitiveness Council (Research) on Tuesday 11 December 2012. Concerns relating to the range of coverage and support for large investment projects were raised at these meetings as being items of major concern to Ireland. In addition, my Departments officials have discussed these issues with Commission officials across a range of dossiers to ensure that Irish concerns are well known within the Commission. My officials have also met with a number of like-minded Member States on numerous occasions in the recent past, both on the margins of the Competitiveness Council and bilaterally.
My Department, in conjunction with the enterprise agencies, is currently preparing a detailed submission to the Commission on the current Regional Aid proposals. All relevant Government Departments have been briefed on this issue through the State Aid Interdepartmental Committee and briefs have issued to the relevant Minsters. All Irish MEPs and the Irish representatives on the Council of the Regions have also been briefed on this issue. For the 2014-2021 Regional Aid Map, economic data such as unemployment and Gross Domestic Product for all counties will once again be analysed afresh when deciding which counties will be designated for Regional Aid.