The European Commission announced Saturday aid of 14.8 million euros (24.75 million dollars) for 2,400 workers left jobless by the closure of a US computer factory in western Ireland.
The announcement was made as Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso was visiting Limerick, and two weeks before Ireland votes again on whether to accept the EU’s Lisbon Treaty.
“The economic crisis is affecting all European countries but Limerick and the surrounding areas have been hit hard by job losses at the local Dell plant and its suppliers,” it quoted Barroso as saying.
“The EU is built on solidarity. Our natural response is to come to the aid of those who are experiencing difficulties and to take decisive action to tackle the jobs impact of the crisis,” he said.
The cash is aimed at helping the redundant workers find new jobs in the wake of the closure of the Limerick plant, which had made Dell Ireland’s leading exporter, as the global crisis shattered the Celtic Tiger economy.
The aid under the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, which was set up to help workers hit by the world economic crisis, still has to be approved by the European parliament and the bloc’s 27 member states.
Ireland votes in a referendum on October 2 on the Lisbon Treaty, which is designed to improve decision-making in a greatly expanded EU.
In a referendum in June last year the country — which is constitutionally bound to put the treaty to a public vote — sent shockwaves through the EU when it rejected the pact by 53.4 percent.
Latest opinion polls suggest the new referendum, following adjustments to the treaty, will return a yes vote, influenced in particular by the economic crisis which has hit Ireland harder than most.
In an interview with the Irish Times published Saturday Barroso said there were doubts about the future situation of Ireland.
“Some people have asked me: is Ireland going to leave the EU?” he said.
“For investor confidence, it is important that there is certainty about the future of Ireland in the EU.”
Barroso also said that if the Lisbon Treaty, which requires unanimous ratification, was rejected the number of European commissioners would have to be reduced.
“The only way to ensure that Ireland will always have a commissioner is to vote Yes to Lisbon,” he said.