BMW Annual Conference 2014
Brendan Howlin, TD, Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform informed delegates that this year marks the start of new round of EU funding programmes, which will run until 2020 whilst making the key note address at the Border, Midland and Western and Southern and Eastern Regional Assemblies’ Joint Annual Conference. This conference was held on Friday 28th November, in the Minister’s home town of Wexford where the proposed Regional Programmes and other EU funding opportunities for 2014-2020 were presented.
These other programmes include Regional and Territorial Cooperation Programmes under shared management with EU Member States and other European funding programmes directly managed by the EU institutions.
The Minister welcomed Ireland’s Partnership Agreement with the European Commission which will see €1.2 billion of Cohesion funding being invested in Ireland over the next seven years, saying “ERDF and ESF funding will be used for areas such as promoting jobs and growth; combating long-term and youth unemployment and social exclusion; promoting R&D and ICT investment and the competitiveness of the business sector; and promoting an environmentally-friendly and resource efficient economy.” The Minister continued, adding “these priorities are closely aligned with the Government’s overall focus on jobs and growth.” He highlighted the €150 million allocation for a new Peace programme between Northern Ireland and the Border counties”.
In his welcome address Cllr. Gerry Horkan, Cathaoirleach, S&E Regional Assembly reflecting on the achievements of the ERDF co-funded regional programmes in both regions emphasised the ‘contribution that EU Cohesion and Urban policy can continue to make to economic recovery in the years ahead. He acknowledged the cooperation of the European Union in the finalisation of the programmes”.
Speaking on behalf of the European Commission, Ms. Lena Andersson-Pench, Director DG Regional and Urban Policy spoke of how “successfully both Regional Assemblies have managed the regional programmes”. “She outlined the new priorities for ERDF funding and the need for the greater focus on results in programme implementation.”
Mr. Gerry Finn, Director, BMW Regional Assembly set-out the achievements under both Regional Programmes over the 2007 to 2013 period. As these programmes draw to a close, Mr Finn pointed to the attainment of targets in terms of job creation, research activity, broadband delivery and urban development.
The new regional programmes which have been recently submitted to the European Commission were presented by Mr. Stephen Blair, Director, S&E Regional Assembly. Mr. Blair detailed the funding priorities which include, research and innovation, high speed broadband, SME competitiveness, energy efficiency and urban development. He stated that €500 million will be invested in the S&E region and €320 million in the BMW region, 50% co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
The funding opportunities available from the European Territorial Cooperation programmes were introduced by Mr. Michael O’Brien, BMW Regional Assembly, Mr. David Kelly, S&E Regional Assembly and Ms. Siobhán Rudden, S&E Regional Assembly. This was followed by a presentation by Mr. Rob Collins, Irish Regions Office, Brussels on other funds available directly from the EU for which Irish organisations can compete.
Ireland’s Regional Assemblies co-hosted the conference to provide delegates with up to date information on EU funding opportunities and the means of accessing EU funds. The Regional Assemblies will continue to manage the ERDF co-funded Regional Programmes 2014-2020 which will provide investment in excess of €800m over the next 7 years, as part of Ireland’s Partnership Agreement with the EU. They will also continue to host the National Contact Points for several transnational INTERREG Programmes and for the Ireland-Wales Cross-border Programme.
In closing the conference, Cllr Seamus O’Domhnaill informed the delegates that the upcoming reforms of regional administration in Ireland will see the establishment of a third Regional Assembly. However, he stated that the two existing Assemblies will continue to manage the ERDF Regional Programmes until 2020.