European Structural Funds

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance and Personnel – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 15th January 2001.

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Photo of Joe Byrne Joe Byrne Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:30 pm, 15th January 2001

1. asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel to detail what progress is being made on the design and management of the European progress funds.

(AQO 555/00)

Photo of Mr Arthur Doherty Mr Arthur Doherty Social Democratic and Labour Party

5. asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel to outline the progress made on the finalisation of the EU structural funds.

(AQO 558/00)

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party

I will take questions 1 and 5 together.

The Northern Ireland Community Support Framework (CSF) was formally approved by the European Commission in December 2000. The CSF will be implemented through the transitional Objective 1 and Peace II programmes which are at advanced negotiation stage. The draft programmes have also entered the Commission’s own inter-service consultation process. Community initiative proposals have also been submitted separately for negotitaion with the Commission over the next five months. The three monitoring committees for the CSF, the Peace II and transitional Objective 1 programmes have been appointed, and preliminary meetings of all three were held before Christmas.

Photo of Joe Byrne Joe Byrne Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister for his answer. Will he let the House know his thinking on the INTERREG programme? How does he invisage that the local authority cross-border networks could be used to facilitate delivery in conjunction with social partners?

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party

As I said, proposals for the INTERREG III programme have been submitted to the Commission. Those proposals were agreed by the North/South Ministerial Council when it last met in special EU programme sectoral format, and have been approved by the Executive. We are working to ensure the admissiblility of those proposals, and we intend to have approximately five months in which to continue negotiations with the Commission. Last week, I met the cross-border council groups, and I am aware of their interest in INTERREG III. At that meeting it was agreed that an action team would be established, which would include representatives of those cross-border networks. The team would include officials from both the Department of Finance and Personnel in the North and the Department of Finance in the South. It would be chaired by the Special EU Programmes Body with a view to it’s giving a report to the North/South Ministerial Council when it meets in sectoral format in March.

Photo of Mr Arthur Doherty Mr Arthur Doherty Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister for the element of his answer which covered question 5. The special support programme for peace and reconciliation will have an important role to play in the change in funding arrangements. Will the local devolved delivery mechanisms have a role to play under the Peace II funding? Will these local partnerships be a continutaion of the existing district partnerships?

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party

The Executive Committee have agreed that Peace II should be delivered by a similar mix of delivery mechanisms as was used in the previous programme. There will be a tendering process for intermediary funding bodies to operate under the new programme, and local partnership arrangements will operate in each of the 26 district council areas These would necessitate a closer working relationship between the existing district partnerships and district councils, involving Government Departments and statutory agencies which also work locally. The aim is to develop, at a local level, structures which are sustainable beyond Peace II.