Colette Fitzgerald will take up office as Head of the European Commission Regional Office in Northern Ireland on 1 September 2012, following the retirement of Maurice Maxwell, her predecessor, on 31 August.
Ms Fitzgerald, who comes from Belfast, joined the European Commission in 1991 and served in the Directorate General for Regional Policy, initially dealing with structural funding programmes for Ireland and Northern Ireland, and later Sweden. She also worked on the preparation of the funding programmes for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania prior to their accession.
Between 2000 and 2005 Ms Fitzgerald was Deputy Head of the Innovative Actions Unit in the Regional Policy DG, responsible for the preparation and launch of a new Commission initiative to promote innovation in Northern Ireland and improve the quality of mainstream structural funds spending.
Ms Fitzgerald spent two years on secondment to the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland, assisting in capacity-building on EU-related issues within both the Northern Ireland Civil Service and the wider public and private sectors. In May 2007, she then began work as a Commission advisor to the Northern Ireland Executive, facilitating the work of the European Commission Task Force for Northern Ireland established by President Barroso. This brought her into regular contact with the Northern Ireland Assembly, Northern Ireland Ministers, civil servants and regional stakeholders.
Ms Fitzgerald's rich and varied experience will enable the Commission's Office in Northern Ireland to play a key role in communicating with local citizens and the media. Moreover, her previous experience will be a useful asset in maintaining relations between the Commission and the Northern Ireland Assembly, Ministers and the Executive, as well as with local authorities and other stakeholders.
The Commission has representations in all 27 EU Member States and Regional Offices in Barcelona, Belfast, Bonn, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Marseille, Milan, Munich and Wrocław. They inform the media and public about EU policies and report to the Commission on significant developments in the country.