Malta and Cyprus to receive €20 million
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The European Commission has proposed that Malta and Cyprus should receive €20 million under the small isolated island initiatives. This will be allocated as part of a €5 billion new investment in energy and Internet broadband infrastructure in 2009-2010, in support of the EU recovery plan as part of the ongoing implementation of the EU recovery plan endorsed by the European Council in December 2008, the European Commission has presented proposals to invest in key energy and Internet broadband infrastructure projects.
These will deliver a much needed stimulus to the EU economy in the short term, while at the same time targeting strategic goals such as energy security. All Member States will benefit from the package of measures.
Commission President José Manuel Barroso said: “The EU’s Recovery Plan is all about ‘smart investment’ – a short-term stimulus targeted on long-term goals. That is exactly what the Commission has adopted today: a list of specific projects to direct €5 billion of unspent money from the EU budget to build a stronger Europe for the long term. We need to learn the lessons of the recent gas crisis and invest heavily in energy. We also need to stimulate the European economy by providing information highways in rural communities. The Commission is committed to working together with Member States, all of whom will benefit from our proposed measures, in revitalising the EU economy through investment in these key areas.”
The package presented contains: a short Communication outlining the background to and the objectives of the initiative; for energy projects: a proposal for a Regulation to grant Community support to strategic energy projects. A total of €3.5 billion is proposed for investment in carbon capture and storage (financial envelope: €1,250 million), offshore wind projects (€500 million), and gas and electricity interconnection projects (€1,750 million). for broadband:, the Commission proposes to target €1 bn to extend and upgrade high-speed internet in rural communities. This money will be targeted via the existing EU’s Rural Development Fund to cover the “white spots” on Europe’s broadband map (30% of the population in rural areas who do not have broadband access). and tackling new challenges identified in the “health check” of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): using the existing rural development mechanisms, this would direct €0.5 billion to launch the work of tackling the “new challenges” agreed in the health check. These new challenges are: climate change, renewable energy, water management, biodiversity and dairy restructuring.
Energy and broadband networks are both crucial to the future of the EU economy.
The challenge of energy security was highlighted in Commission’s second strategic energy review of November 2008. Its significance was underlined still further by the recent gas crisis. In the current economic and financial climate, projects are finding it particularly difficult to access investment. The EU support will put these projects back on track: they will help to plug the gaps in EU energy interconnections, and keep up the momentum to use the EU’s domestic energy sources to best effect. The projects focus on cross-border needs and on the development of new technologies essential for Europe’s future energy needs.
The extension and upgrading of high-speed internet infrastructure is an economic and social imperative. The European Economic Recovery Plan set out a goal of developing broadband networks to achieve a full 100% high-speed internet coverage by 2010. However, rural areas will always face additional difficulties in linking up to broadband. As investment slows to a trickle, this risk is redoubled. This has direct social and economic consequences. That is why it is right to concentrate this action on rural areas – and using the rural development instruments will allow for action on the ground to start quickly.
In November 2008, as part of its European economic recovery plan, the Commission suggested the mobilisation in 2009 and 2010 of an additional €5 billion of unspent money from the EU budget for investment in energy and broadband projects. The idea was to speed up necessary investment, cushion the blow of the economic downturn on the construction sector and enhance the EU’s longer term sustainable growth potential through a targeted stimulus into the EU economy. This is an important contribution to the agreed figure of an economic stimulus to the tune of 1.5% of GDP, which was made up of both national and EU action.
The proposal has been presented by President Barroso in agreement with Commissioners Piebalgs, Fischer-Boel and Reding. With these proposals, the Commission is implementing the mandate given to it by the European Council in December 2008 to come forward speedily with a list of specific projects, taking into account a suitable geographical balance. In order to maximise the effects on the general economy quickly, particular emphasis has been given to the need to start the spending in 2009 and 2010.
In order to ensure that the proposals can have an impact as quickly as possible, the Commission hopes that the Council and the European Parliament can make swift progress on the discussion and adoption of the legislative measures. The Commission therefore hopes that normal procedures in the other institutions can be accelerated in order to deliver the package.