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5 August 2013 Edition

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Cost of the EU Multi-Annual Financial Framework

This is funded by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) – Another Europe is possible

The cuts will not impact until AFTER the 2014 European elections

A REDUCED EU budget will have a devastating effect on the North of Ireland. A 6% reduction for 2014 represents the first time the EU budget has been cut in 56 years.

The direct effect of this will see the Cohesion Funds cut by €7billion and agriculture and fisheries slashed by €1billion. The budget, to be given legal framework in September, has the Westminster Government agreeing the biggest reduction of any member state – 22% in real terms for rural development.

This ill-conceived determination by the Westminster Government to achieve cuts in the EU Budget at all costs – supported by UUP and DUP MEPs – will have a demoralising impact on rural areas which rely on Rural Development Funding (RDF) to modernise and plan for the future. Funding for the PEACE Programmes will also be reduced from €225million to €150million, undermining a lot of good work which has been done through previous PEACE funding.

Under this formula, in the current round of funding the 26 Counties will receive Pillar 2 monies representing €423 per capita. In comparison, residents in the North will receive €35 per capita – less than 10% of our southern counterparts as a result of the British Government agreeing a 22% allocation cut to satisfy its austerity agenda.

In CAP reform negotiations in particular, the Sinn Féin focus at all times was to secure three key elements – well-funded programmes, flexibility and simplification.

The CAP Budget is approximately 40% of the EU expenditure. The pressure to reduce it came from British Tories supported by the UUP and DUP in Westminster and Brussels. Throughout the negotiations I engaged with like-minded colleagues in opposition to proposed cuts. I also hosted and facilitated various delegations of local stakeholders representing farming, rural, business and SME sectors by introducing them to decision-makers at the EU Parliament and Commission.

All of these delegations shared a common purpose in seeking fairness in budget allocations.

An area which most objective observers would agree is unfair when it comes to CAP and Rural Development Funding (RDF), for instance, is that priority is not given to small farmers and rural community projects rather than large commercial farming operations. Unfortunately, this was not entirely successful but we have opened this area up to scrutiny and will continue to fight for change in future allocations.

Using the same allocation formula as the EU, this reduced budget will result in £26million being cut from the Single Farm Payment and £160million from RDF, possibly resulting in our farmers struggling to remain in farming.

If Scotland succeeds in pursuing a larger allocation from Whitehall this could put further pressure on our claims. But in a blatant manipulation of available funding to protect their sitting MEPs and those who supported the cuts, such as the unionist members, EU governments (including the Irish Government) will frontload budget allocations so that the cuts will not impact until AFTER the 2014 European elections.

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