I propose to take Questions Nos. 167 and 168 together.
The LEADER programme is co-funded by the European Commission under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The current 2014-2020 LEADER programming period concludes in December 2020.
Proposals for new regulations for the CAP 2021-2027 were launched in June 2018 by the European Commission. However, given the protracted nature of discussions on the post-2020 CAP and on the wider EU Budget at EU level, there has been a delay in adopting these proposals. This means that the next LEADER programme will not commence until January 2022 at the earliest.
The Programme for Government includes a commitment to prioritise a State-led programme to bridge the gap between the current LEADER programme and the next EU programme. The objective of this commitment is to allow local-led rural development projects to be delivered under a Transitional Programme until the new EU programme commences.
The European Commission has published proposals for transitional measures to allow for continuity between the programming periods. The Commission's proposals are still under discussion at EU level and there are a number of issues yet to be resolved, including the duration of the transitional period.
Nonetheless, I hope to be in a position shortly to announce the details of a Transitional LEADER Programme for Ireland, to come into effect in 2021. Details of the funding available to the Local Action Groups which implement LEADER locally will be made available when the Transitional Programme is announced.
An extra €4 million has been provided for LEADER in Budget 2021, to bring the total allocation for next year to €44 million. The allocation will be used to fund a combination of existing projects as they come to completion, as well as for new projects to be approved under the Transitional Programme and to support the administration costs of Local Action Groups in closing out the existing programme and delivering the Transitional Programme.
It is important to recognise that LEADER is a multi-annual programme and that payments in respect of projects which are approved in any given year are generally not drawn down until subsequent years, depending on the nature and scale of the projects concerned. In this context, costs related to projects under the Transitional Programme are also likely to be met from the provision in my Department’s Vote in 2022 and 2023.