Brussels, 29 January 2013
EU Regional Policy: Building Trust in Divided Communities
Following the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union, the European Commission is inviting divided communities in the EU and beyond to consider whether and how they might draw on the experience of the EU's PEACE Programme in Northern Ireland and Ireland's Border Region.
The Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, will host a conference: "Bringing Divided Communities Together - Sharing the Experience of the EU PEACE Programme" on Thursday, January 31 at 9:00 am in the Charlemagne building.
He will be joined by First Minister of Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson, Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, and Irish Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin. The conference will be attended by representatives of EU Member states, candidates, neighbourhood countries and others.
Participants in three peace-building projects from Northern Ireland will also be at the gathering to share their experiences. Their presentations will be followed by a discussion on how far the Peace Programme's approach could be transposed to other parts of the world.
Commenting ahead of the event, Commissioner Hahn said: "The EU PEACE Programmes have touched the lives of around a million people in Northern Ireland and Ireland's Border Region, and helped to create the conditions in which peace and reconciliation could take root. This is an opportunity to celebrate the work of many brave and committed individuals from both communities – and to consider how far others may learn from their experience."
He added, "Recent events in Northern Ireland have shown there is still work to be done but also that the vast majority desire peace.. EU funds have an important role to play in helping to lay the groundwork for a shared society in which every community benefits from the fruits of the peace. Regional policy is there to make investments that make a difference to people's lives – and I trust that the PEACE programme will continue whatever the outcome of the current budget discussions".
The projects present are:
Groundwork NI managed two projects focusing on contested physical areas, attempting to overcome sectarianism and segregation within local communities in Northern Ireland and the border area. As well as providing a practical use for derelict or unused sites, good relationships were built between communities, with joint decision making on local areas for regeneration and transformation, contributing to a shared vision of peace for the future.
Theatre of Witness is based on performance: the true life stories of people from diverse backgrounds are performed by the people themselves, Theatre of Witness productions are performed in spoken word, music, movement and cinematic imagery. Some recent Theatre of Witness programmes have brought survivors of violence together with perpetrators and witnesses to explore issues of accountability, guilt, forgiveness and redemption.
Football for All is committed to tackling sectarianism and racism through football with a number of grass-root level education measures, such as working with Irish league clubs and with community groups, fans and volunteers.
The PEACE III Programme for Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland is part-funded by the European Union (€225 million from the EU with further national contributions of €108 million) through its Regional Policy funds. The main aims of the PEACE III Programme are to reinforce progress towards a peaceful and stable society and to promote reconciliation by assisting operations and projects which help to bring communities together and contribute towards a shared society for everyone. The launch of the PEACE Programme in 1995 was the direct result of the European Union’s desire to respond positively to new opportunities in the Northern Ireland peace process during the paramilitary ceasefire announcements. Since then the EU has provided additional financial assistance through the PEACE II Programme as well as the current PEACE III (2007-2013), with a total of €1.3 billion. The programme's strong emphasis is on community inspired initiatives to create a shared vision of society, to work together on shared projects and to acknowledge and deal with the past. Footage available and event will be covered.
Stockshots for Broadcasters of current PEACE III Projects in Belfast Available on EbS