Dáil Éireann - Volume 649 - 04 March, 2008

Written Answers. - Disadvantaged Areas Scheme.

[236] Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will provide information regarding the EU reviewing areas defined as disadvantaged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9113/08]

  Deputy Mary Coughlan: The European Commission first tabled proposals in 2004 on a review of the Less Favoured Areas (Disadvantaged Areas), with a view to having changes implemented as part of the Rural Development Framework for 2007-2013. The proposals represented a move away from designation based on socio-economic factors, (declining rural population, low productivity and low farm incomes), to a methodology favouring physical characteristics, (soil type, poor climate, slope and altitude of land). Agreement was not achieved because of the level of opposition from many Member States. Accordingly, the Commission agreed to allow the current criteria stand until 2010, with proposals, for new criteria to be brought forward in 2008, for implementation from 2010 onwards.

An evaluation of the Less Favoured Areas Measure in the Member States was carried out on behalf of the Commission by the Institute for European Environmental Policy and published in November, 2006. Bilateral meetings between the Commission and Member States, are taking place and following their conclusion the Commission intend to prepare and finalise a proposal for submission to the Council of Ministers. It is expected that this proposal will be made in May 2008 with a view to having it adopted by the Council prior to the end of this year.

My officials and I will work very closely with the Commission and my colleagues in the Council of Ministers with a view to achieving the optimum outcome for Ireland.