Thursday, 18 April 1991
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. A. Reynolds: Following the reform of the Structural Funds undertaken in 1988, in the context of adoption of the Single European Act, the resources of the funds have been substantially increased. I am satisfied that the enhanced role of the Structural Funds in the Community budget will continue, and I can assure the Deputy that the Government are vigorously pursuing Ireland's interests in this regard.
The position regarding the Structural Funds after expiry of the present round of Community Support Frameworks in 1993 will be addressed in the review of the funds which is to be carried out this year. The Government will use the opportunity of the review to stress the importance of Structural Fund aid for Ireland in the period after 1993.
Ireland's wider interest in seeking to ensure that the objective of economic and social cohesion is given due prominence in a revised EC Treaty is, of course, being pursued within the context of the two inter-governmental conferences which are currently taking place within the Community.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Has the Minister or any other Government Minister made a formal submission to the EC Commission either for a continuation of the payment of Structural Funds after 1993 or for an increase in the amount paid?
Mr. A. Reynolds: As I have already stated, the review of the effect the present Structural Funds, which run to 1993, are having on the Irish economy in promoting convergence and cohesion will be carried out later this year. The question of the continuation of some type of funding, Structural Funds or enlarged Structural Funds from an enlarged budget and the question of social and economic cohesion for the Irish economy, will be discussed in the context of the Intergovernmental Conference which is now taking place. The Deputy and the House will be aware that we submitted a paper to the Intergovernmental Conference on EMU last January. At that  time we were alone in making the case and led the debate for social and economic cohesion, but since then Greece, Portugal and Spain have given strong support. The Commission who in the early stages said that cohesion was not a matter for discussion at the IGC has now changed its stance and is coming out in support also. This matter will be discussed in detail at the informal ECOFIN meeting in Luxembourg on 10 May.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): May I ask the Minister if any preparatory work is being undertaken in his Department to form a cohesive regional policy for this country in the event of Structural Funds being paid post 1993?
Mr. A. Reynolds: I am quite confident that the assessment and review of Structural Funds towards the end of this year will show that not alone Ireland but indeed other countries also will need continuous funding for some time into the future to bring the economies closer together and to help those areas on the periphery to develop further so that we can all share equally in the success of EMU towards the end of this decade. That is a view that is strongly held. As I have said, the Deputy and the House can be assured that no opportunity will be lost, and no opportunity in the past was lost to get the maximum funds required for this economy. This country is regarded in Community terms as a region and no opportunity will be lost to maximise the amount of funds necessary to upgrade our infrastructure and indeed to help us make the transition to stage three of EMU.
Mr. Quinn: The Minister referred in his reply to Deputy Noonan's question to a review process that will commence later this year. Would he specifically state who will constitute that review group and what criteria they will be using?
Mr. A. Reynolds: The guidelines for that review have yet to be decided. The review will be carried out by and large by the Community in conjunction with the Department of Finance to assess if the gap has narrowed and to what extent it has narrowed during the course of receipt of these funds and how effective the funds have been in reducing the disparities that exist.
Mr. A. Reynolds: That has not been fully decided yet. As I have said, the review is being initiated at the behest of the Commission who want to be in a position to advise the Finance Ministers and Heads of Council how effective the Structural Funds have been and what plans have to be made in the future.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I asked  the Minister if any plans are being prepared in his Department to formulate a fully developed, proper regional policy for this country. To help the Minister in his reply, he might be aware of a fairly extensive submission by the Governor of the Central Bank on the committee examining the possibility of a Central Bank for Europe. In the context of social cohesion and the equation of living standards in Europe he made the very strong argument that it would be impossible to get a cohesion of living standards in the absence of a fully developed regional policy. Has the Minister and the Department taken that advice on board? Are the Department taking any steps to formulate a regional policy for this country in the event of Structural Funds being paid throughout the decade?
Mr. A. Reynolds: His general approach is one of a regional policy in European terms. He was talking about the periphery regions as against the centre, what the strong forces in the centre will be doing to attract investment and what counter balancing policies need to be put in place to ensure that the periphery nations like Ireland do not suffer. He was not talking internally or domestically about a regional policy for Munster or Connacht.
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