As you know, EU Tourism Ministers met on 27 April and 20 May by videoconference to discuss the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on tourism. At both those meetings, I urged the European Commission to introduce new, tourism-specific funding supports for member states and to allow maximum flexibility in State Aid rules, to enable the provision of timely and appropriate supports for the sector.
On 27 May, the European Commission published a revised proposal for the next Multiannual Financial Framework to run from 2021-2027, along with a proposed temporary and frontloaded new European recovery package called “Next Generation EU”, to run over the period 2021-2024. The eligibility criteria for these funds has been further expanded to include objectives that will provide supports for small businesses, tourism, culture and natural heritage, among a range of other areas. This legislation is still being debated in the European Council and Operational Programmes for the period 2021-2027 will be agreed based on the new regulatory framework. The Operational Programmes are expected to be completed by the end of 2020, or early in 2021. The amount of European funding that will be allocated to Ireland and all other Member States is still being negotiated. My Department is exploring all potential EU financial supports for the tourism sector, and is examining the Commission’s proposals in consultation with relevant Departments. EU leaders will discuss these proposals at the forthcoming European Council on 19 June, with a view to reaching early political agreement.