Europe and BrexitPublic Affairs

Brussels to Belfast

Martina-Anderson-Executive-2011 New Sinn Féin MEP co-opted

Martina Anderson replaced Bairbre de Brún as Sinn Féin’s MEP for Northern Ireland on 12 June; de Brún had been unwell for some time and stepped down on 3 May. Anderson, who was a junior Minister at OFMDFM, has also resigned her Assembly seat for Foyle.

The new MEP told journalists that protecting cohesion funding was among her priorities. “Funding must be available on the basis of need,” she said, “and should not be used as an instrument of punishment against vulnerable regions because of a member state’s failure to meet bureaucratic targets.” Non-euro countries that fail to comply with the Growth and Stability Pact’s excessive deficit procedure may have Cohesion Fund commitments suspended; the money focuses on environmental and transport improvements. Under the procedure, budgets deficits cannot be greater than 3 per cent of GDP and government debt must be below or declining towards 60 per cent of GDP.

Northern Ireland “should not be punished because of decisions taken by the British Government or to satisfy German rules and regulations.”

Anderson plans to work closely with Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, who would be a “priority point of contact in [her] efforts to assist in delivering the Executive’s economic objectives.”

Renewable heat incentive approved

The European Commission has approved the Executive’s plan for a renewable heat incentive. Incentives for biomass, ground source, biogas and solar energy sources, to produce heat and hot water, will come through tariffs per unit of heat produced, divided into bands by technology used. The scheme will operate for a maximum of 20 years. The incentive is expected to be made available for the non-domestic sector this summer and to households in 2013.

Worth an estimated £184 million in total, £25 million is being allocated for the first five years. Northern Ireland has a target of 10 per cent of heat demand to be met by renewable sources by 2020.

In its investigation of the proposal, the Commission found that it was compatible with EU environmental aid guidelines and will not lead to over-compensating the beneficiaries of the aid. A similar scheme already exists in Great Britain.

Debating Europe’s future

Citizenship Commissioner Viviane Reding has launched a public consultation on what kind of EU people want by 2020 and what obstacles people face in exercising their rights as EU citizens.

“Citizens’ direct input will help us to continue doing our job, and to do it even better in the future,” Reding stated.

The Commission wants to hear about people’s problems in moving around the EU e.g. working, studying, exercising consumer rights. Views will feed into the next EU Citizenship Report, to be published on 9 May 2013. The consultation runs until 9 September and is available online at:

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