Written Answers. - European Regional Development Fund.

127.

asked the Minister for Finance whether the Government have taken note of the new regulations governing the European Regional Development Fund which will come into force on 1 January 1985; if so, if he will indicate the precise manner in which it is proposed to implement the provision regarding integrated development programmes; and if he will make a comprehensive statement on the implications for Ireland of the new regulations governing the European Regional Development Fund.

The Government are, of course, aware of the new regulation governing the European Regional Development Fund.

At present my Department is engaged in an examination of the regulation with a view to deciding how best to respond to the various new provisions which it contains in order to ensure that Ireland secures the maximum benefit from the fund. The terms of the new fund regulation differ considerably from those of the existing regulation and I am not in a position at this stage to make a comprehensive statement on the lines requested by the Deputy.

However, I would draw attention to the major change involved. Under the new regulation the existing system of national quotas from the European Regional Development Fund is replaced by a scheme of indicative brackets which stipulate a minimum and a maximum share of the fund for each member state. As a result of considerable pressure exerted by Ireland in the negotiations on the new regulation, it was accepted that in Ireland's case the guaranteed minimum of the range — 5.64 per cent of the total fund — would correspond to Ireland's guaranteed share of the fund under the present quota system. In addition, the top of the range will give Ireland the opportunity to bring its potential maximum share to 6.83 per cent of the fund.

As regards integrated development operations, I would repeat what I have said in reply to a number of earlier questions on this subject that for a number of sound practical reasons I have considerable reservations about the introduction of these operations for limited geographical areas of the country particularly since Ireland is treated as a single region for purposes of Community regional policy. I would also point out that the new regulation does not provide for any enhanced rate of grant from the Regional Fund for these operations.