Taoiseach hails accord as good 'for Ireland'


The European Union budget agreement has been hailed as a “good deal for Ireland” by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, but he emphasised the need to secure European Parliament support for the proposal, a key responsibility of the Irish presidency of the European Council.

EU leaders yesterday agreed a €960 billion budget for the next seven years following more than 25 hours of talks. The agreement represents the first cut to the EU budget, or multiannual financial framework (MFF).

Under the budget,which will govern EU income and expenditure between of 2014 and 2020, income from the Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) will represent Ireland’s biggest receipt, though the allocation has been cut since the previous MFF.

Ireland is now expected to receive about €1.5 billion per year from the 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.

However, changes to the Cap are ongoing, with Ireland hoping to secure agreement during its presidency.

While noting that negotiations had “minimised” the planned cuts to the Cap, 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 is 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 next seven years, while Ireland has also been granted an extra €100 billion for the Border, midlands and western region.

The State is also expected to gain “substantial funding” from the €6 billion youth employment initiative, said the Taoiseach. In addition, €150 million has been pledged for the Northern Ireland peace fund.

Likely to dominate

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

Attention will now turn to securing parliamentary 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 the State’s presidency.

While Mr Kenny stressed that Ireland “was looking forward to taking up the challenge”, the support of MEPs is far from guaranteed. However, presidency sources noted that the budget agreement did allow for a certain degree of flexibility.