Tuesday 31 July 2007

Cohesion policy - Commission approves national strategy for Ireland

Regional policy Commissioner Danuta Hübner and Employment and social affairs Commissioner Vladimír Spidla have reached agreement with Ireland on its national plan and priorities for Cohesion policy 2007-2013.

In their National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), the Irish authorities describe how they plan to invest EU funding of €750.7 million over seven years, in line with the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs.

Commissioner Hübner said - "Ireland has been one of our best examples of how cohesion policy can be used to help create growth and jobs and I'm very happy the Irish authorities intend to carry on with policies on these lines. Ireland's framework ranks very high in its commitment to the Lisbon strategy for jobs and growth. 83% of investment has been earmarked in line with this."

Commissioner Spidla said - "The Irish strategy shows strong commitment to promoting more, better investment in human resources - which we hope will lead to more, better jobs. That is the aim at the heart of the European reform agenda. Ireland's priorities will equip its workforce with the skills to adapt to changing circumstances."

The Irish framework, negotiated over the past few months, sets out in broad terms how Ireland will invest €750.7 million over the next seven years to deliver growth and jobs, to strengthen human capital and to ensure balanced and harmonious development - including the reduction of regional disparities.

Ireland's strategic thematic and territorial priorities for 2007-2013, as set out in the NSRF for the two Irish regions South & East and Border-Midlands-West, are the following -

1. Promote investment in human capital through upskilling the workforce, increasing participation in the workforce and activating groups outside the workforce.

The authorities will focus on women, people with disabilities, lone parents, travellers (the Roma community) and ex-offenders.

A special programme will target migrants, as they make a very significant contribution to the economy.

2. Support innovation, knowledge and entrepreneurship in the regions. The objective is to boost research and development (R&D) in areas and institutions (Institutes of Technology, mainly), where this capacity has been lacking in the past.

The aim is to double the number of PhD graduates during the programming period.

Ireland will also continue to develop Foreign Direct Investment - one of the competitive characteristics of the economy.

3. Strengthen the competitiveness, attractiveness and connectivity of the National Spatial Strategy - defined by the government - through improved access to quality infrastructure and promoting environmental and sustainable development.

Gateways and hubs will connect urban areas. There will be a special focus on public transport and innovative environmental solutions.

The broad priorities in the framework will take shape through three operational programmes -

* one for South and East (supported by the European Regional Development Fund - ERDF)
* one for Border-Midlands-West (ERDF) - and
* one for developing human resources (European Social Fund - ESF).

Adoption of these is expected before the end of 2007.

Ireland sent its National Strategic Reference Framework to the Commission in March 2007.

Each Member State prepares a National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) - coherent with the Community Strategic Guidelines for 2007-2013 - in the course of an ongoing dialogue with the Commission. That document defines the strategy chosen by the State and proposes a list of Operational Programmes (OPs) that it plans to implement. As at 27 July 2007, 20 Member States have had their NSRFs officially validated by the Commission.

The Lisbon Agenda is an action and development plan of reforms, set at the Lisbon European Council in March 2000. The reforms are intended to implement the EU's strategic goal of becoming the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world - capable of sustainable economic growth, with more and better quality jobs and greater social cohesion. Progress is regularly reviewed at Spring European Councils.

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