Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions (195, 196)

Marian Harkin

Question:

195. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the percentage of the European Regional Development Fund allocated to each NUTS 3 region in Ireland in each of its priority areas, namely, the digital agenda, support for small and medium-sized enterprises, environment and the net-zero-carbon economy during the 2014 to 2020 period; and the proposed allocations for the 2021-2027 programmes (details supplied). [8839/21]

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Marian Harkin

Question:

196. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the proportion of the European Regional Development Fund allocated to each NUTS 3 region in Ireland during the 2014-2020 programme; the proposed allocation to each NUTS 3 region during the 2021-2027 programme; if the European Commission's downgrading of the northern and western region has been taken into account in his Department's planning for the 2021-2027 programme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8840/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 195 and 196 together.

The information requested by the Deputy is not available on a NUTS III basis and is presented reflecting totals for NUTS II regions. For the 2014-2020 programming period Ireland was comprised of two NUTS II regions – the Southern and Eastern Region and the Border, Midland and Western Region. Reflecting the changes introduced to Ireland's regional structure, this will change for the 2021-2027 period, to three NUTS II regions, the Southern Region, the Eastern and Midland Region and the Northern and Western Region.

For the 2014-2020 programming period the EU Regulations provided for expenditure under 11 Thematic Objectives. They also required that at least 80 % of the total European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) resources at national level be allocated to two or more of the thematic objectives 1, 2, 3 and 4. Given this structure, it is not possible to break out the allocations under the headings of the digital agenda, support for small and medium-sized enterprises, environment and the net-zero-carbon economy.

In response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Commission introduced additional flexibilities, delivered through two Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII and CRII+) packages, in which Member States could re-programme existing allocations of funding towards the Covid-19 response, at a co-financing rate of 100%. Ireland took advantage of these flexibilities and reprogrammed €226.6 million of unclaimed ERDF funding to support a new Health Support Heading primarily used to support the purchase of PPE for the Health Services.

Details of the two ERDF Regional Operational Programmes, are summarised in the table below:

Thematic Objectives for ERDF

ERDF S&E

ERDF BMW

ERDF - Total

Strengthening research, technological development and innovation

€21,652,061

€20,157,967

€41,810,028

Enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises

€11,933,177

€9,889,293

€21,822,470

Supporting the shift towards a low-carbon economy in all sectors

€60,878,975

€18,000,000

€78,878,975

Preserving and protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency

€24,427,315

€13,148,850

€37,576,165

Health Support Scheme (PPE) *

€129,165,299

€97,415,632

€226,580,931

Technical assistance

€2,009,350

€2,097,179

€4,106,529

TOTAL

€250,066,177

€160,708,921

€410,775,098

* A further €60m of European Social Funding (ESF) was also reprogrammed for the Health Support Scheme, under the EU Corona Virus Response Investment Initiative.

In addition as part of Next Generation EU additional resources were provided through the REACT-EU measure for the 2014-2020 Programmes. Funding from REACT-EU is split into two tranches, one allocated at the end of 2020 and another to be allocated at the end of 2021. In the first tranche, Ireland has been allocated approximately €84 million (2018 prices). The second tranche makes up 30% of the total funding allocation and the allocation method will be based on economic data available in October 2021.

With regard to how REACT-EU can be utilised, maximum flexibility is being given to Member States to utilise the additional funding under their existing European Social Fund, European Regional Development Fund, and Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived programmes, with an option to avail of up to 100% EU co-financing. The relevant national authorities in Ireland are currently engaged in a process to finalise the arrangements to allocate this funding between the eligible Funds and Programmes.

In relation to 2021-2027 Ireland is expected to receive a total of €1,137 million (in 2018 prices) in Cohesion Policy Funds, comprising of:

- €351 million for the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF);

- €451 million for the European Social Fund + (ESF+);

- €258 million for European Territorial Cooperation (including PEACE PLUS); and

- €77 million under the Just Transition Fund (JTF).

The details supplied to date indicate an initial ERDF allocation for the transition region – the Northern and Western Region of €97,811,529 with the remaining €253,296,072 allocated across the two more developed Regions – the Southern Region and the Midland and Eastern Region. However, the Regulations governing the funds, which are nearing finalisation, provide for a number of flexibilities, including transferring allocations between Funds, and between Regions.

Work is well advanced in preparing Ireland’s Partnership Agreement and ERDF Operational Programmes for 2021 - 2027. I have acknowledged that the Northern and Western region of Ireland has been designated as a 'Region in Transition'. In light of this, I announced in October 2020 that there would be a specific ERDF programme focused on the North West and that the Northern Western Regional Assembly will act as Managing Authority for the programme for the 2021-27 period. Moreover, an independent Needs Analysis was conducted by Indecon Economic Consultants to provide the evidence base for the future ERDF (and ESF+) programmes. The report includes a specific analysis of regional disparities and the particular challenges faced by each region. Given the reclassification of the Northern and Western region, a specific chapter is dedicated to the past performance and the particular needs of this region. In developing the Operational Programmes, consideration will be given to how best we can avail of the flexibilities available in the regulations, how to maximise synergies between the various EU Funds and how the overall process can help to address the specific needs of all regions.