EU grants, essential to build infrastructure and carry out research, is under threat because of the Juncker investment plan, warns Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune.
Much of the EU’s €16bn contribution to the investment plan will come from the funds Ireland would hope to get money from for roads, ports and airports over the next five years.
Ms Clune is particularly worried about the Connecting Europe Facility that provides grants to countries like Ireland that are no longer poor enough to receive money from other EU funds.
Usually the money would be spent on projects in rural Ireland that might not be attractive to private investors but which are essential to maintain local employment and generate growth.
Most of these would not qualify for backing from the the European Commission president’s investment plan either as it is designed to attract private investors by underwriting just a section of the proposed development they consider may be risky.
In Ireland, many of the projects that need investment are socially viable but would not generate a high enough return to attract investors under Jean-Claude Juncker’s plans, said Ms Clune .
“I don’t want to see a situation develop where all the projects for development under Juncker’s plan are Dublin and urban based —high return projects,” she said. “There are many necessary investment that would not be attractive to private investors, but need to be done all the same.
“President Juncker needs to revise his plans or risk losing the support of the parliament.”
Ms CLune has the support of the parliament’s transport committee that have called on the commission president to revise his plans. MEPs from all political groups are demanding that money come from other sources, rather than Connecting Europe.
MEPs from the budget and economics committees are also critical of the plan and have demanded oversight of it at every stage. Projects will be chosen not on the basis of a country’s needs, but on what a board of experts will decide will generate most growth. Negotiations with the commission are ongoing before the crucial vote in the parliament in June or July.
The Government gave a list of 70 projects as an example of the kind of work that needs support in Ireland at a cost of more than €23bn .
Almost half of these projects were in infrastructure, worth about €10bn in total, and included a number of ports, airports including Shannon, and roads all over the country.
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