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An initiative for Northern Ireland on the part of the Commission has taken the form of the creation of Northern Ireland Task Force (NITF). Its origins lie in the agreement to re-establish power sharing arrangements in Northern Ireland in May 2007 involving the two major political parties. Commission President Barroso was the first senior international political figure to visit the incoming First Minister, Mr. Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness. He offered to set up a Task Force within the Commission in order to examine how Northern Ireland could benefit more from EU policies, and how it could participate more actively in the EU policy process in order to generate more prosperity.

The NITF has operated within the Commission under the authority of the Commissioner for Regional Policy and in close cooperation with NI authorities. It is composed of representatives of European Commission Directorates General (DGs) that have a role in fostering socio-economic development (Agriculture, Education and Culture, Enterprise, Environment, Research and Development, Transport, Energy, Regional Policy, Secretariat General and Information Society) and is managed on a day-to-day basis by the DG for Regional Policy. The European Investment Bank also participates in meetings of the Task Force.

The existence of the Task Force represents a first for the Commission in terms of the formation of a close partnership specifically with one region covering several key policy fields. Informal contacts, exchange of information and joint meetings have contributed to the establishment of a relationship of confidence between the Commission services and the NI administration.

In April 2008, the Commission published a report on its work under the NITF , which set out a number of ideas and leads to be explored by Northern Ireland in the different policy fields. The report was received very favourably in Northern Ireland which reacted by drawing up its own action plan to implement the suggestions offered. The actions have covered a diversity of areas including transnational and cross-border cooperation, networking (including a PEACE network and innovation networks with other regions in Europe), energy efficiency and dealing with climate change, the creation and maintenance of employment opportunities and developing skills, on investment in research and support for enterprises.

President Barroso met with the First Minister, Peter Robinson, and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, in Brussels on 9 December 2010.  He re-affirmed the European Union's commitment to Northern Ireland in a statement issued following the meeting.

Last update: 05/09/2012  |Top