Today the Commission announced the continuation of the Northern Ireland Task Force, in order to help the region participate more actively in the EU policy process and fully benefit from EU programmes and projects fostering growth and jobs.
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said: "I welcome very much the useful contribution the Task Force has made to the promotion of socio-economic reconstruction and in that way to the consolidation of the ongoing peace process and securing reconciliation in Northern Ireland. The peace process in Northern Ireland requires continuing efforts and the Commission has a special role to play in this, as it also does in contributing to reinforce the region's European engagement. I therefore believe that the Northern Ireland Task Force, with its valuable expertise, should continue to play an important role in the future."
As Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Creţu is responsible for the management of the work of the Northern Ireland Task Force. "With this renewed partnership, and in line with the priorities of the Commission, we will do everything we can to support growth and job creation in Northern Ireland, including on an all-island basis, as the region pursues the process of consolidating peace and reconciliation", she said.
Commissioner Creţu met today with Mrs Emma Pengelly and Ms Jennifer McCann, Junior Ministers in the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive, and with Ambassador Declan Kelleher, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the EU, on behalf of Mr Seán Sherlock, Minister of State for Development, Trade Promotion and North-South Co-operation of Ireland, to officially launch the new PEACE programme. This cross-border cooperation programme aims to deepen reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border region of Ireland and tackle remaining challenges through investments in shared education, shared spaces and services and projects that will bring people together.
The origins of the Northern Ireland Task Force lie in the agreement between the two major political forces to re-establish power sharing arrangements in the region in May 2007. The Commission then decided that it should help as much as possible at this historic moment and set up a Task Force in order to examine how Northern Ireland could benefit more from EU policies, in an effort to generate greater prosperity, and in that way help consolidate the peace process.
The Northern Ireland Task Force operates within the Commission under the authority of the Commissioner for Regional Policy. It is today composed of representatives from 17 European Commission Directorates-General which have a role in fostering socio-economic development. With the help of the Northern Ireland Task Force, the region has developed networks and partnerships in numerous fields, such as research, environment, healthcare and education.
At the request of President Juncker, the services of the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy, together with their counterparts in Northern Ireland, will carry out an assessment of the work of the Northern Ireland Task Force by the end of 2018.