Wednesday, 4 February 2004

Ceisteanna (111)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

191 Mr. O'Dowd asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress to date in developing a cross-Border approach to rural development. [3239/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

My Department and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland are the co-chairs of the Steering Committee on Cross-Border Rural Development. The committee also comprises representatives of the Special EU Programmes Body and the North-South Ministerial Council Secretariat.

The terms of reference of the committee are as follows: to promote the maximum co-operation in the implementation of rural development programmes, including EU programmes; to exchange information on experience and best practice in both jurisdictions in relation to rural development; and to examine the scope for a common approach to the feasibility of developing cross-Border area based strategies and rural development research. In support of its work the committee commissioned two studies in 2001 on co-operation between cross-Border rural communities and cross-Border education, training and research in rural development.

With regard to the co-operation study, the North-South Ministerial Council endorsed the main finding, namely, that an area based approach to cross-Border rural development should be adopted. The rural initiative measure of the INTERREG III programme was identified as the vehicle through which this approach could be implemented and the applications for funding under this initiative are currently being assessed.

The second study on cross-Border education, training and research identified the need for greater co-ordination, accessibility and practical application of information on current education, training and research provision. Its main recommendation is the setting up of a one-stop shop for collecting, holding and disseminating information on training and education provision in the Border region.

The steering committee agreed that the two lead Departments would write to all the universities, colleges and relevant organisations which had been included as part of the study for their views on how the main recommendation for the one-stop shop could best be implemented and a number of common suggestions for the format and functions of the one-stop shop were identified from the comments received. This has been done.

The committee is currently considering the establishment of a web-based one-stop shop for factual information and is exploring with the Centre for Cross Border Studies the possibility of amalgamating it with the centre's proposed websiteBorderIreland.info. The committee continues to meet regularly to discharge its terms of reference.

Question No. 192 answered with QuestionNo. 181.