Northern Ireland: Cohesion policy essential for its economic and social development
Eight members of the regional development committee participated in the fact-finding mission to Northern Ireland (21-23 March) to assess the impact of cohesion policy on the region.
MEPs visited a series of EU-funded projects across Northern Ireland, including urban projects funded as ‘shared spaces’ in Belfast under the Peace Programme and cross-border projects in the Derry/Londonderry area under the Interreg Programmes. MEPs also visited the EU-funded Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, where they heard about some local projects funded under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Agricultural Rural Development Fund (EARDF). They held meetings with the government departments responsible and the Special EU Programmes Body.
You can find below the statements of the MEPs participating in the mission:
Joachim ZELLER (EPP, DE), Chair of the mission, said: “The purpose of the fact-finding mission was to see how European programmes can work in complex political conditions, and help to resolve conflict. We were able to determine that Northern Irish and other authorities work together efficiently at different levels in order to use European funds to bring people together and make economic and social progress happen.”
Lambert VAN NISTELROOIJ (EPP, NL) said: “I saw unprecedented, strong cross-border projects in remote areas. I concluded that the EU Regulation on the European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) offers a useful legal basis to foster the ongoing cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”.
Derek VAUGHAN (S&D, UK), said: “I am pleased the delegation was able to see how important EU funds are for bringing Communities together and increasing prosperity in Northern Ireland. It is vital the Peace Programme and Interreg funding continue in the future.”
Demetris PAPADAKIS (S&D, CY), said: “It was a very interesting and well organised fact finding mission which showed that EU funds are well spent for the benefit of all citizens in Northern Ireland. This visit handed us building blocks for the report the EP will draw in the coming months regarding the role of the EU cohesion policy in Northern Ireland.”
John FLACK (ECR, UK), said: “It’s been most helpful to see how EU funds have been spent on the ground in Northern Ireland. This kind of experience helps us hold the Commission and managing authorities to account for their spending of public money, helping us deliver value for money for citizens.”
“Above all though, as a British member, I’ve been pleased to see the cooperation that exists between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on a range of issues. I look forward to seeing this cooperation continue into the future and am optimistic about new and exciting ways in which this can happen", he added.
Ivan JAKOVČIĆ (ALDE, HR), said: “It has been impressive to see how the EU’s peace programme works in practice and the many positive results it has achieved. There is no doubt the programme is making a difference in Northern Ireland, and serves as an example for other parts of Europe, which have also been torn by conflicts and violence. I firmly believe it is crucial that both the peace programme and the interreg programmes are continued in the future, which will benefit both the people of Northern Ireland and Europe as a whole.”
Martina ANDERSON (GUE/NGL, UK), said: “Peace and Interreg funding has clearly contributed towards peace and reconciliation. The EU structural funds must continue to play a positive role in the months and years ahead to uphold the Good Friday Agreement in all of its parts.”
Terry REINTKE (Greens/EFA, DE) said: “What we have seen here in Northern Ireland is that cohesion policy makes a difference and has a huge impact on the ground, both for people and for local economies. We are certain that the support of EU funds, especially in the form of Peace Programme and Interreg cross-border projects, has to be continued as they provide a positive perspective for communities in building trust, solidarity and mutual cooperation. People are what we should prioritise, and the best guarantee of their sustainable future is maintaining the EU policies that work for all. For Northern Ireland, this is of crucial importance, as it ensures a stable process of reconciliation.”