Ireland's transport minister announced yesterday (27 June) a “significant breakthrough” with the European Parliament on a new regulation that will see almost €30 billion in EU funding targeted at enhancing the transport, energy and telecoms networks, under the so-called Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).
The minister, Leo Varadkar, announced that the three parties – the Council where member states sit, the European Parliament and the Commission – had reached agreement on a compromise text for the facility.
The CEF is the biggest victim of the austerity push in the 2014-2020 EU budget. The facility was slashed from €50 billion in the Commission's initial proposal to €41.2 billion in a second version presented by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. It was then again cut to €29.3 billion under the last proposal, adopted at the 8 February summit of EU leaders.
“CEF is a key instrument for targeted infrastructure investment at European level which will make a significant contribution to the development of the single market and boost sustainable growth, jobs and competitiveness across the European Union. The €30 billion in EU funding will also be used to leverage additional private investment,” Varadkar said.
“Connectivity is key to the EU’s competitiveness and economic recovery. CEF will offer funding opportunities over the next seven years to deliver key transport, energy and telecoms infrastructure for all Member States, particularly those currently isolated from European networks.”
Irish Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte also welcomed the agreement, adding that CEF would provide financial support for those projects identified in the Sectoral Guidelines (Transport, Energy and Telecommunications) that cannot be financed fully by the market.
“This is particularly relevant in the context of ending the isolation of ‘energy islands’ and completing the IEM,” he said.
The agreement for CEF was reached perhaps by coincidence on the same day and at the same time as the agreement between the three EU institutions on the EU budget for 2014-2020.
The agreement now goes to Coreper, where the ambassadors of the member states sit, for final approval.