MEP opposes moves to exclude farmers, SMEs from retraining fund

Farmers, small business owners and self-employed workers will have to fight to be included in a €2.5 billion fund to retrain and upskill European victims of globalisation.

The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) is intended to fund the upskilling of newly redundant workers. Typically, in Irish terms, these would be ex-Dell or Waterford Crystal workers whose jobs were either globally displaced or lost due to global pressures. These people would have their retraining in new skills part funded by the EU.

Ireland South MEP Sean Kelly is resisting a move by German MEP Jens Geier to have the rules amended to exclude farmers and owner-managers of micro, small and medium enterprises from the EGF.

If the EU’s trade talks with the Mercosur countries impacts negatively upon the agri-food sector, Mr Kelly argues that farmers and food companies will suffer the direct impact of globalisation. With a likely 75/25 split in EU and domestic funds, the new EGF rules will be set in stone until 2020.

Mr Kelly said: “Farmers are very definitely under threat from globalisation, from price volatility and from any negative impact of trade talks such as Mercosur. The EGF fund should be used an insurance during difficult times to protect those enterprises, including farming, which are capable of being profitable.

“I strongly oppose any amendments to the EGF which would rule out the agricultural sector and SMEs in the revised programme....

“We have experienced the programme’s shortcomings in Ireland, especially in relation to the situations with Dell and Waterford Crystal. It is imperative that the Commission and the Parliament take heed of previous errors and refine the EGF model to maximise its undoubted potential.”

Mr Kelly said that farmers and the self-employed should have been included in the EGF from the start.

The first EGF fund amounted to around €1.7bn and was split 50/50 in terms EU and domestic contributions. The new fund is to be €2.5bn on a 75/25 split.

Socialist MEP Mr Geier is authoring the EGF report which the European Parliament’s committee on regional development is to present to the Commission.

Mr Kelly has made it clear he will not support his position but the Fine Gael MEP has, however, indicated his support for some aspects of the draft report. Mr Kelly will back an amendment to reduce the minimum threshold for applications to 200 redundancies, instead of the figure of 500 put forward by the Commission.

The members committee on regional development will vote on its final draft report in the coming months and then seek the approval of all members of the European Parliament before communicating their stance on the second EGF programme to the Commission.

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