The Commission has adopted the PEACE PLUS, a new cross-border EU programme to strengthen peace and reconciliation and cross-border cooperation between Ireland and Northern Ireland. It combines the previous INTERREG and PEACE funding strands into a new programme for the 2021-2027 EU period. The Commission will invest €235 million from the European Territorial Cooperation allocation of the European Regional Development Fund.
Together with the UK's financial commitment and additional national co-financing from Ireland and Northern Ireland, this will result in a total investment of €1.1 billion in peace and prosperity on the island of Ireland.
Vice-President for Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight, Maroš Šefčovič, said: “The EU has proven time and again its commitment to the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. Today is another concrete example of that support - together with the Irish and British governments, the new PEACE PLUS programme will provide around €1 billion to Northern Ireland and the border counties. Preserving the hard-earned gains of the peace process will always be of paramount importance to all Europeans.”
Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, added: “Since 1995, the EU has been committed to make a constructive contribution to the peace process. The new ambitious PEACE PLUS, the largest ever cross-border cooperation programme in the island, is built on the same principles of partnership that have made the past PEACE programmes effective instruments for cooperation and peace building. We invite partners in Ireland and Northern Ireland to continue their work to achieve our shared ambitions for reconciliation, peace and prosperity.”
The programme will target investment in six key thematic areas:
-Building Peaceful and Thriving Communities
-Delivering Economic Regeneration and Transformation
-Empowering and Investing in Our Young People
-Healthy and Inclusive Communities
-Supporting a Sustainable and Better-Connected Future
-Building and Embedding Partnership and Collaboration
Local partnerships will help regenerating and transforming local communities in a peaceful context with respect for all cultural identities.
The well-being of young people is essential for long-term peace and prosperity in the region. The programme will therefore pay special attention to their needs and potential through an ambitious youth programme and shared learning.
Rural communities along the border face particular challenges, such as access to health care, which may result in inequalities. By supporting cross community and cross border collaborative approaches to health and social care, the programme helps building healthy and socially inclusive communities.
A special focus on economic regeneration and transformation, skills development and biodiversity
Investments in economic regeneration and transformation, which used to be funded under the INTERREG Ireland - Northern Ireland - Scotland programme, have now been integrated in the PEACE PLUS programme to complement the investments in peace and reconciliation. These will help growing the potential of local small and medium businesses and drive the promotion and adoption of new technologies through research and innovation. The funds will also address key skills gaps, which will result in increased productivity and employment and higher levels of cross border labour mobility.
Furthermore, the PEACE PLUS programme will contribute to the transition to a green and climate-resilient society. It will invest in pilot projects for geothermal energy and improve cross border mobility on the rail line between Belfast and Dublin, essential for economic and social cohesion.
Cross-border investments in water management and biodiversity will help improve and preserve the rich eco-system of the island.
After the Commission adoption of the new PEACE PLUS programme, the next step is the conclusion of a financing agreement between the Commission, Ireland and the United Kingdom. This agreement will allow the implementation of the PEACE PLUS programme on the ground.
Over the past 25 years, the EU has funded major PEACE programmes within the framework of Cohesion Policy, to support and sustain the peace process on both sides of the Irish border. As such, the peace process on the island has meshed naturally with the larger peace process on the European continent.
The EU and the UK have expressed their commitment in the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement to continue the programme within the 2021-2027 Multi-annual Financial Framework.
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