A Strasbourg plenary session of the Parliament approved two Spanish requests and one Irish bid for funding.
In Spain, where the collapse of the construction sector has led to a severe economic meltdown, funds will be allocated to support ceramic workers in the construction sector of the Valencia region. A total of 181 companies have suffered 1,600 redundancies altogether, and will get €6,598,735.
The second Spanish aid figure provides €1,950,000 for a total of 557 workers in the wood sector of Castilla-La Mancha, while in South-East Ireland, four companies from the ceramic crystals industry in the Waterford area will receive €2,570,853 for 598 unemployed workers.
The latter two aid packages benefited from the 2009 revision of the EGAF, which lowered the fund's eligibility threshold from 1,000 redundancies to 500 redundancies within the space of four months.
Italian centre-right MEP Barbara Matera, rapporteur on the EGAF in the European Parliament, argued that "in times of high unemployment rates, it is crucial to focus on efficient and innovative tools to help an effective re-entry into the labour market of those workers who have lost their jobs".
MEPs from the affected regions responded positively. Irish centre-left MEP Alan Kelly said that "this funding represents a hand-up for people as opposed to a hand-out," adding that "it is a fund that invests in people" and "should prove to be a vital stimulus for a region that is badly in need of investment".
In both Ireland and Spain, regional politicians and MEPs have called for the funds to be handled quickly and efficiently by the relevant national/regional funding authorities, to speed up the unemployed workers' access to retraining.
"Sweeping powers must be given to a [regional] co-ordinator to facilitate access to courses for workers," said Irish centre-right MEP Sean Kelly.