§ Mrs. Ewing
To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) if she will make a statement on the Government's response to the latest proposed eligibility criteria for European Structural Funds with particular reference to Objective 1 funding; 
(2) what recent representations she has made to the European Commission regarding the proposed eligibility criteria for areas awarded Objective 1 status, with particular reference to proposals on population density. 
§ Mrs. Roche
[holding answer 27 March 1998]: We have now seen the draft regulations for Structural and cohesion Funds—which are part of the wider Agenda 2000 reform package. The regulations must now be agreed by all fifteen Member States and approved by the European Parliament.356W
I and Ministerial colleagues have pressed the Commission, and will continue to push, in respect of Objective 1, for flexibility around the 75 per cent. GDP threshold to allow for margins of error and for equal treatment of areas of sparse population like the Highlands and Islands, together with consideration for the special circumstances of Northern Ireland.