The purpose of the EU PEACE programme is to support peace and reconciliation and to promote economic and social progress in Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland.
The legal basis for the fourth PEACE programme covering the 2014-2020 programming period is Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of 17 December 2013 and Regulation (EU) No 1299/2013 of 17 December 2013.
The peace process in Northern Ireland has been receiving financial support from the EU since 1989, through both EU regional policy and EU contributions to the International Fund for Ireland (IFI).
Following the recommendations from a special Commission Task Force, the PEACE I programme (1995-1999) was approved on 28 July 1995. In March 1999, the European Council decided that the special programme should continue until 2004 under the name of PEACE II. The programme was subsequently extended until 2006. PEACE III, covering the 2007-2013 programming period, carried on some of the priorities of the previous programmes, and a declaration of its closure is to be submitted to the Commission by 31 March 2017.
A new programme (PEACE IV, 2014-2020) was officially launched on 14 January 2016, with a strong emphasis on investment targeted at children and young people.
The PEACE programme has been implemented as a cross-border cooperation programme (in the context of European territorial cooperation), and has two main aims:
The programme addresses the specific problems caused by the conflict with the aim of creating a peaceful and stable society. To this end, it builds upon two main priorities (reconciling communities and contributing to peace) and four main objectives (2014-2020):
Since 1995 there have been three PEACE programmes, with a financial contribution of EUR 1.3 billion. While PEACE I (1995-1999) and PEACE II (2000-2006) received funding from all the Structural Funds, PEACE III (2007-2013) was funded solely by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
The PEACE IV programme has a total value of EUR 270 million. The ERDF contribution to the programme is approximately EUR 229 million (85%), and EUR 41 million (15%) will come from match-funding (i.e. non-EU sources which may include national, regional and local government funding). 94% of the PEACE IV programme resources will support social inclusion, combating poverty and labour mobility.
The area eligible for inclusion in the fourth PEACE programme consists of Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland (the latter comprises counties Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal).
Overall management and delivery of the programme is handled by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), and financing is administered by local partnerships and non-governmental organisations.
Furthermore, in 2007 the Commission established the Northern Ireland Task Force (NITF), which operates under the authority of the Commissioner for Regional Policy and in close cooperation with the Northern Ireland authorities. The NITF aims to improve competitiveness and create sustainable employment.
The PEACE programme has provided opportunities for participation and dialogue, and has brought decision-making and responsibility for community development closer to the people (i.e. it has applied a ‘bottom-up approach’). It has funded a wide range of projects, including projects to support victims and survivors, young people, SMEs, infrastructure and urban regeneration projects, as well as projects in support of immigrants and of celebrating the ethnic diversity of society as a whole.
Importantly, this programme is now seen as an example of peace-building policy to be shared throughout Europe and other regions.
Parliament has always supported the EU financial contributions to the PEACE and IFI programmes. In its legislative resolution of 15 June 2010 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning European Union financial contributions to the International Fund for Ireland (2007-2010), Parliament emphasised that the IFI should complement the activities financed by the Structural Funds, and especially those of the PEACE III programme operating in Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland. Parliament calls formally on the Commission to ensure this coordination.
Parliament, in its role as co-legislator on the cohesion package (in this context, on the Common Provisions Regulation and the Regulation on specific provisions for the support from the European Regional Development Fund to the European territorial cooperation goal), has strongly supported the continuation of the PEACE programme in the 2014-2020 period. Furthermore, in its resolution of 13 November 2014, Parliament underlined the importance of the PEACE programme in building up progress, economic and social cohesion and reconciliation between communities.
Following the outcome of the UK referendum, it can be anticipated that the Northern Ireland PEACE programme will form part of the discussions that are to take place during the upcoming negotiations between the UK government and the European Union.
‘Northern Ireland in Europe, Report of the European Commission’s Northern Ireland Task Force 2007-2014’, European Commission, 2014
‘Special EU Programmes Body: Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 December 2014’, SEUPB, 2015
OJ C 236 E, 12.8.2011, p. 173.
Filipa Azevedo / Diána Haase