EU support for Irish Regions


The National Development Plan (NDP) 2000-2006, is the largest and most ambitious investment plan ever drawn up for Ireland. It involves an investment of over €57 billion of public, private and EU funds over the seven-year life of the plan. Investment is allocated to projects that improve infrastructure, develop a highly-skilled and flexible workforce, promote social inclusion and distribute the benefits of Ireland's economic success evenly across the country. The NDP specifically provides support across healthcare, social housing, education, roads, public transport, rural development, industry, water and waste services.

The recent economic development has resulted in a vastly changed environment for this plan as compared to that for the two previous plans. Ireland has a significant lack of proper infrastructure, which threatens further economic development. In the area of labour or human capital, the prospective slowing down in the expansion of the labour force and skills shortage in key areas are emerging as constraints on further economic and employment growth.

The pressure on the country's physical and human resource infrastructure is compounded by lack of sufficient regional balance in our economic development. The infrastructure in large urban areas, especially the Dublin region, is under pressure from the upsurge in commercial and business activity and the increasing population in these areas to serve this activity. By contrast rural and smaller urban areas have lagged behind. Overall there has been continuing divergence between the economic performances of the Southern & Eastern and Border, Midland & Western Regions.

Not all sectors of society have, however, benefited from the economic transformation. Unacceptable levels of poverty and social exclusion continue to exist in both urban and rural areas. The objectives for the National Development Plan 2000-2006 are thus broader than previous plans:
• continuing sustainable national economic and employment growth
• consolidating and improving Ireland's international competitiveness
• fostering balanced Regional Development
• promoting Social Inclusion.

Unlike its two predecessors, the current NDP is not primarily designed to draw down EU Structural and Cohesion Funds. These Funds provide a significant though declining source of funding. Most of the public funding for this initiative (about 90 per cent), comes from domestic and largely exchequer sources. The EU contribution stands at €6 billion of the total budget. This portion is drawn from the Structural and Cohesion Funds (€3.8 billion), the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Rural Development Plan (€2.2 billion). Additional investment under Public Private Partnership (PPP) will amount to at least €2.4 billion.

EU Involvement in the NDP Under the first two rounds of Structural Funds the entire country was classified as an Objective 1 region. However, given its recent economic performance, parts of Ireland have now exceeded the eligibility criteria for Objective 1 status. For the 2000-2006 programming period the country has been designated into two NUTS II regions.
1. Border, Midland and Western Region (BMW) remains an Objective 1 region.
2. Southern and Eastern Region (S&E) is classified as a transitional Objective 1 region (which means the S&E still qualifies for EU support but on a sliding and declining scale.)

The establishment of the BMW and S&E significantly increases the influence of the regions in the development and delivery of the NDP. It represents a significant devolution of responsibility to Regional Assemblies by providing for the first time, for regional programmes in a National Development Plan. In previous NDPs the management of structural programmes has always been centralised at Government Department level in Ireland.

To draw down EU Structural Funds, each Member State had to draw up and submit a plan setting out its investment priorities for the funding period. This plan, in Ireland's case, the NDP 2000-2006, formed the basis of negotiations between Ireland and the European Commission. The agreement resulted in a Community Support Framework (CSF) document that included actions, objectives, targets, anticipated financial resources, and monitoring, evaluation and control systems. Ireland's NDP was submitted to the EU Commission in November 1999. The NDP and the CSF are currently being implemented as an integrated investment plan and strategy for both economic and social development.

The Structure of the NDP

The NDP is made up of 7 Operational Programmes (OPs) with three national and two Regional Operational Programmes, a programme to support the Peace Process and one for the NDP administration.

Border, Midland and Western Regional OP (€4.1 billion)
Southern and Eastern Regional OP (€5.3 billion)

These two regional programmes cover a wide range of initiatives at regional and local level and deal specifically with regional and local infrastructural issues such as non-national roads, rural water, waste management and urban and village renewal. The programmes also focus on local enterprise development in areas such as tourism, forestry as well as agriculture and rural development and social inclusion measures such as childcare, equality for women, youth services and crime prevention.

Employment & Human Resources OP (€14.2 billion)

This programme includes measures to improve education and skills, encourage entrepreneurship, provide equality of opportunity between men and women, promote life-long learning, and to encourage social inclusion particularly the re-integration of the long-term unemployed.

Productive Sector OP (€7.3 billion)

The Productive Sector OP includes measures to provide grant aid and direct spending in the industrial, agricultural, tourism and fisheries sectors. Some of the money will be directed towards encouraging research, technological development and innovation. There is an emphasis on helping Irish firms to develop and expand while attracting more overseas firms to invest in Ireland.

Economic and Social Infrastructure OP (€26.0 billion)

This programme aims to increase the capacity of Ireland's infrastructure, enhance the potential of all regions to participate in economic and social development and contribute to the protection and improvement of the environment. Specific areas for investment include the development of National Roads and Public Transport, the Environmental Infrastructure including Waste Water and Water Supply, Sustainable Energy including Energy Conservation and Alternative/Renewable Energy, Social Housing and Health facilities.

Peace II OP (€0.13 billion)

A PEACE Programme operates in the border counties and in Northern Ireland and focuses on promoting cross-border peace and reconciliation. Strategic co-operative projects in a variety of sectors and for a variety of organisations are supported through this programme.

Technical Assistance OP (€0.014 billion)

The Technical Assistance programme covers the costs associated with the administration, evaluation, monitoring and communication of the National Development Plan and the Community Support Framework.

Each of the above Programmes is divided into sub-programmes, which are further broken down into Measures and Sub-measures, detailing specific funding initiatives under each programme.

Implementation of the NDP

Overall responsibility for the implementation of the NDP rests at central government level with the Department of Finance. However, each Programme is administered by a Managing Authority, which delegates the implementation of individual measures to an Implementing Body (in many cases another Government Department or a State Agency). The Managing Authorities for each Programme are:

Managing Authorities for the NDP Programmes:
Programme Managing Authority
The National Development Plan/ Community Support Framework OP Department of Finance
Border Midland & Western Regional OP Border, Midland and Western Regional Assembly
Southern & Eastern Regional OP Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly
Employment & Human Resources OP Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Productive Sector OP Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Economic & Social Infrastructure OP Department of the Environment and Local Government
Peace II Programme OP Special EU Programmes Body
Technical Assistance OP Department of Finance

Each Programme is monitored by a Monitoring Committee. These committees meet twice a year to review progress in the programme's implementation. Membership of the Monitoring Committee includes representatives from the Department of Finance, Managing Authority, Social Partners, Implementing bodies and the European Commission (as observers). Financial management and control of the programmes involves a series of interlocking certification and verification operations across different tiers of management from the Department of Finance down to the final beneficiaries. Thus accountability for spending public funds can be traced right back to the European Commission.

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Cork Main Drainage System