EU budget 'a good deal for Ireland', Taoiseach says

Taoiseach Enda Kenny arrives at the EU headquarters in Brussels for today?s budget talks.  Photograph:  Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Taoiseach Enda Kenny arrives at the EU headquarters in Brussels for today?s budget talks. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Fri, Feb 8, 2013, 00:00

Taoiseach Enda Kenny hailed today’s EU budget deal as a “good deal for Ireland” but reiterated the need to secure European Parliament support for the proposal, a key responsibility of the Irish presidency of the European Council.

EU leaders agreed a €960 billion budget for the next seven years following more than 25 hours of talks. The agreement represents the first ever cut to the EU multi-annual budget.

Under the budget, which will govern EU income and expenditure between the years of 2014 and 2020, income from the Common Agricultural Policy will still represent Ireland’s biggest receipt, though the total allocation has been cut since the previous MFF. Ireland is now expected to receive around €1.5 billion per year from CAP over the next seven years.

Approximately €1.2 billion of this will derive from single farm payments, and the remainder through ‘Pillar 2’ rural development funds and market support measures. Included in this estimate is an extra €100 million in rural development funds to recognise the impact of the economic downturn on Ireland.

Despite today’s budgetary decision on CAP, the reform of the CAP is still ongoing, with Ireland hoping to secure agreement during its Presidency.

While noting that negotiations had “minimised” the planned cuts to CAP in the budget, Irish Farmers’ Association President John Byran urged Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to address Irish concerns about greening and internal convergence in the ongoing CAP reform proposals.

In terms of EU cohesion funds, Ireland is expected to maintain its level of funding, despite the fact that it now categorised as a more ‘developed’ region.

The €900 million received by Ireland in structural funds over the last seven years is expected to be matched over the coming next seven years, while Ireland has also been granted an extra €100 billion for the Border, Midlands and Western region.

Ireland is also expected to gain “substantial funding” from the €6 billion youth employment initiative announced yesterday, the Taoiseach said.

In addition, €150 million has been pledged for the Northern Irish peace fund.

While the programme received €225 million in the last MFF, the payment had been omitted in the European commission’s initial 2011 proposal, so its retention is seen as a positive achievement for Ireland.

With agreement now reached on the MFF, attention will now turn to securing Parliament support for the proposal, which is required under the Lisbon Treaty.

Negotiating with the Parliament falls to Ireland in its role as president of the European Council, with the issue likely to dominate the remainder of Ireland’s presidency.

While the Taoiseach stressed that Ireland “was looking forward to taking up the challenge”, the support of MEP’s is far from guaranteed.

However, Presidency sources noted that the budget agreement did allow for a certain degree of flexibility as well as the inclusion of a review clause, as the Irish presidency enters negotiations with the Parliament. .

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