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Special jobs fund could help Ireland

A special fund to help Ireland and other bailout countries create jobs could use EU money unspent by other countries, according to the European Commission.

The fund could run to several millions of euro unspent last year and is being discussed by the Commission at present, a source confirmed. Normally such money would go back to the member states.

Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski said he supports the idea aimed at helping create and grow jobs in programme countries.

The idea builds on one put forward by France and Germany in a letter to be presented to next week’s EU summit, which is to focus on creating growth.

The proposal from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel however has strings attached. It suggests that 25% of unspent EU regional funds in programme countries would be removed from them and put under the control of the Commission, which would manage it with the European Investment Bank.

Projects to be financed by this fund, such as research and loans to small and medium-sized businesses, would have to set clear targets that could be implemented this year, according to the letter.

However, if the fund was composed of money just the country involved had not spent last year, Ireland would not benefit as it normally manages to spend all its allocation on time, having one of the best records in the EU for this.

If, as the Commission is probing, the fund combined all unspent monies it would still not amount to a very big amount, the Commission said, adding up to between €10m and €15m.

 By Ann Cahill, Europe Correspondent

This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Tuesday, January 24, 2012

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