Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions (580)

Marian Harkin


580. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the proportion of the European Social 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. [8841/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

For the 2014-2020 programming period Ireland was comprised of two NUTS 2 regions – the Southern and Eastern Region and the Border, Midland and Northern Region (BMW). Both NUTS 2 Regions were categorised as more developed regions, attracting a 50% ESF cofinancing rate and a 66.67% YEI cofinancing rate.

Reflecting the changes introduced to Ireland's regional structure this will change for the 2021-2027 period, to three NUTS 2 regions, the Southern Region, the Eastern and Midland Region and the Northern and Western Region. As the Deputy notes, the Northern and Western Region is being categorised as a transition region and will attract a higher ESF cofinancing rate of 60% while the other regions will be cofinanced at 40%.

While the 2014-2020 ESF Programme had indicative allocations by NUTS 2 Region, the Programme has been amended on a number of occasions, most recently to avail of the 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%. €60m ESF funding was reallocated to the ERDF to support the purchase of PPE for the Health Services and we will be drawing down the full ESF/YEI allocations on fewer programmed activities.

At the end of 2020, the share of BMW expenditure declared in payment applications to the European Commission accounted for 17% of the total expenditure declared. It should be noted that expenditure in the BMW region was only reported with effect from 2016 as the earlier 2007-2013 ESF Programme ran for a further 2 years in the BMW than in the other regions.

In relation to 2021-2027 Ireland is expected to receive €451m for the European Social Fund+ (ESF+) with an initial ESF+ allocation for the transition region – the Northern and Western Region of €125,659,754 with the remaining €325,412,787 allocated across the two more developed Regions. However, the Regulations governing the funds, which are nearing finalisation, provide for a number of flexibilities, including transferring allocations between Funds and Regions. The final allocation between programmes and regions will be determined in the context of discussions with the European Commission on the Partnership Agreement covering all Common Provisions Regulation funds.

The Northern and Western region’s status as a transition region is being taken into account in the planning of the 2021-2027 programme. 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 an 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. This issue will continue to be taken into account in the drafting and finalisation of the ESF+ programme.