Attendees at a Dublin seminar were told today that the European Commission is proposing to invest €1.2 billion in Cohesion Funding in Ireland over the period 2021 to 2027. €640 million is being proposed under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) while €579 million is being proposed under the European Social Fund (ESF). Today’s event marked the start of the dialogue between Ireland and the Commission concerning the programming of future Cohesion Policy funds (ERDF and ESF).
Speaking after the seminar, Ms Andriana Sukova, Deputy Director General at the Commission’s Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, said: “We discussed the current implementation of the European Social Fund which, since 2014, in Ireland has already supported 200,000 unemployed people to develop improved capacities, competences and skills. We have also supported 48,000 disabled people and 19,000 single parents. We believe this is making a major change in the lives of citizens in Ireland. ”
Ms Lena Andersson Pench, Director in the Commission’s Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy, told attendees that there would be a greater focus in future funding on developing the research and innovation capacities of Irish-owned SMEs as well as on developing a skilled labour pool – a high share of the Irish workforce have low digital skills – and on increasing the share of women in the workforce. She said: “What we are focussing on for the next period is very much innovation and particularly for Irish-owned companies so that companies can work together with researchers at universities in order to be able to help the Irish economy grow.”
Since 2014, the European Social Fund has distributed 900 tonnes of food in Ireland and helped over 200 projects, including WISE, a Donegal-based project to help women return to employment and education, which has helped 170 women since its inception in May 2017.
Over the same period, 860 new researchers in Ireland and over 70 new start-ups and spin-offs have been helped by ERDF funding. This includes initiatives like CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland’s Centre for Research in Medical Devices, which has received €14.4 million in EU funding.
The 2019 Country Report for Ireland published on 27 February 2019 includes a special “Annex D” providing investment guidance on Cohesion Policy funding in Ireland for the period 2021-2027.
The year 2019 sees the continuation of the negotiations on the next multiannual financial framework (next EU budget), when decisions on public investment priorities will be shaped. It provides an opportunity for Member States to prioritise growth-enhancing investments and expenditure and for the EU to increase synergies and reinforce complementarities between EU cohesion funding and the coordination of economic policies.
Investment and structural reforms are closely interlinked. Investment provides the engine for growth and job creation and structural reforms help create a better environment for the smart investments needed to improve and balance regional competitiveness in Ireland.
A new annex D to the 2019 Country Report for Ireland identifies those investment needs that are relevant for the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund Plus for the 2021-2027 period. The report and this annex provide a solid analytical input to the programming dialogue on the future operational programmes the process of which we are launching on 20 March 2019.