Dáil Éireann - Volume 623 - 04 July, 2006

Written Answers. - Farm Retirement Scheme.

Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she has sought and received the approval of the EU Commission to increase the rate of pension awarded to ERS participants under both schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25865/06]

  Mary Coughlan:The rate of pension payable under the 1994 Scheme of Early Retirement from Farming is the maximum provided for by EU Council Regulation (EEC) 2079/92 under which the Scheme was introduced. There is no provision in the Regulation for increases in the rate of pension by indexation or otherwise. The maximum rate of pension payable under the Scheme, currently €12,075 per annum, is the maximum amount which the EU will approve for co-funding.

[475] When the current (2000-2006) Early Retirement Scheme was being negotiated, my Department proposed that the rate of payment should increase annually up to the maximum provided for in the Regulation, which is €15,000. However, the European Commission rejected this for legal reasons and a fixed rate of €13,515 per annum was then approved. Any change to this rate would require an amendment to the CAP Rural Development Plan 2000-2006, and would be eligible for co-funding only for future entrants to the Scheme.

I have explored informally with the Commission the permissibility, under EU Regulations, of increasing the pension rates as a state aid, but I have made no formal proposal to that effect.