Irish funding of EU to soar by 60%

 

Ireland's contribution to the EU budget is set to rise 60 per cent to £1.075 billion by the end of the next EU budget period, the year 2006, estimates released by the Department of Finance show.

The estimates, released to The Irish Times following a request under the Freedom of Information Act, are based on important assumptions about unchanged levels of EU spending and no change in the system of calculation - both matters currently under intense debate in the context of the Agenda 2000 proposals from the Commission.

But, after an expected increase this year in the Irish contribution of 31 per cent and a total rise of 136 per cent in the last 10 years, the new figures show the dramatic continuing effects of growth in the economy on the State's EU obligations.

Contributions are calculated on the basis of a formula that broadly reflects member-states' GNP. Ireland's continued high level of CAP receipts, currently running at £1.5 billion a year, are likely to mean the State will remain a net beneficiary of EU funds for the duration of the next budget period.

But a sharp fall in receipts from regional and social funds towards the end of the budget period, and a loss of Cohesion funding after 2003, both foreseen in Commission proposals under Agenda 2000, are likely to continue to close the gap between receipts and contributions sharply. Since 1991 Ireland's net receipts have already fallen from a high of 6.5 per cent of GDP to an estimated 3.5 per cent this year.