In its announcement on 12 October last, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said its decision was based on the stabilising role the EU has played in transforming most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace. The union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe. The EU’s most important achievement, according to the committee, has been "the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights".
Closer to home, the EU, along with other international partners, notably the US, has been a major supporter of peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland. Through the unique PEACE programmes for Northern Ireland and the Border Counties of Ireland, the EU has provided over €1.2 billion since 1995 to bring divided communities together.
On 1 May 2007, European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, was the first world leader to visit Belfast after the restoration of devolved government. During the visit, the President expressed the support of the European Union for the new political agreement and, on his personal initiative, he decided to set up a special EU Commission Task Force for Northern Ireland to encourage deeper engagement between the region and the EU and its Institutions with a view to supporting peace and stability through promoting greater prosperity. On setting up the Task Force, the President said that, "…in a Union founded on preserving and promoting the principles of peace and prosperity in Europe, I feel the Commission is performing its natural role".
The establishment of the Task Force has led to a much greater level of EU-related activity in NI supported by an internal administrative restructuring of the way the region engages with Europe. Good working relationships have been formed between NI and Commission services which have helped the region increase its participation in EU programmes and networks and to compete more effectively for EU funding sources in fields such as research, innovation, sustainable development, education and the information society.
More information on the Task Force and more information on the Nobel Peace Prize and the 2012 Award.