Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when he expects the EU Commission Directorate-General for Competition to publish the new Regional Aid Guidelines 2014-2020; and the extent to which he has participated in the recent public consultation process.
Reply from Minister Richard Bruton: As part of a State Aid Modernisation initiative currently being undertaken by the EU Commission a number of instruments are being reviewed in parallel, including, in particular, Guidelines on Regional Aid, Environmental Aid, Risk Capital, Research Development and Innovation, Broadband Guidelines and Aviation Guidelines.
Of major importance from an Irish perspective is the revision of the Regional Aid Guidelines. The purpose of Regional Aid is to support investment and job creation and encourage firms to set up new establishments in Europe's most disadvantaged regions.
The process of Member States agreeing the 2014-2021 Regional Aid Guidelines is underway and multilateral discussions between Member States and the Commission, which has responsibility for the Regional Aid Guidelines, have taken place.
This initiative is Commission led, and my Department is actively engaged in the process and has consulted relevant stakeholders including various Government Departments, the enterprise development agencies, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Forfás, the Central Statistics Office, the Border Midland and Western Regional Assembly, the Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly, and the eight Regional Authorities to ensure the preparation and submission of a comprehensive evidence based Irish position on the key issues.
The Commission issued a non-paper of its initial orientations in December 2011, which was followed by a multilateral meeting in March 2012. The Commission subsequently forwarded further proposals to Member States on 14 January 2013, documenting the structure and provisions that will form the basis of the revised Guidelines. These proposals were again discussed at a multilateral meeting on 11 and 12 of February 2013.
I met directly with Commissioner Almunia to discuss the issue of State Aids in December 2012. Minister Sherlock has also raised this issue with Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn. Concerns relating to the range of coverage and support for large enterprises were raised at these meetings as being items of major concern to Ireland.
In addition, my Departments officials are in regular discussions on these issues with Commission officials across a range of dossiers, to ensure that Irish concerns are well known within the Commission. My officials are also liaising with a number of like-minded Member States on the issue. All relevant Government Departments are being kept briefed on this issue through the State Aid Interdepartmental Committee and briefs have issued to all relevant Minsters. All Irish MEPs and the Irish representatives on the Council of the Regions are also being briefed on this issue.
A revised proposal on Regional Aid will shortly be circulated through the Commission as part of the normal inter-service consultation. My Department, in conjunction with the enterprise agencies, is in the process of preparing a detailed submission to the Commission on this revised proposal.
The next meeting of the College of Commissioners is scheduled for Wednesday, 19 June 2013. Once the Regional Proposal has been agreed by the College it will be formally adopted and published by DG Competition.