Written by Enrico D’Ambrogio.
EU integration represents an inspiring example of conflict resolution. Some 30 years of violent sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland was brought to an end in 1998, with the signature of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement. At the time, both the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland were Member States of the European Union, having both joined the European Communities on 1 January 1973.
The EU’s engagement in the Northern Ireland peace process materialised first through support for the International Fund for Ireland. As part of its cohesion policy, the EU then directed significant investment to Northern Ireland through building specific cohesion programmes into the framework of the UK’s allocations. From 1995, EU funding was channelled through successive PEACE programmes, supporting peace and reconciliation and promoting economic and social stability in Northern Ireland and the six border counties of Ireland. The European territorial cooperation programme (Interreg) was a further EU cohesion policy tool playing a role in Northern Ireland.
Since the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on 1 February 2020, the PEACE PLUS programme, the largest ever cross-border cooperation programme on the island of Ireland, has been agreed, and it will continue to support the process towards peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
The European Parliament’s support for the EU’s financial contribution to the peace process has been constant, and Parliament expressed concern for the continuity and stability of this support after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. MEPs have also called for efforts to increase general awareness, and to raise the profile of the impact and necessity of EU funding in Northern Ireland.
Read the complete briefing on ‘EU cohesion policy support to 25 years of peace in Northern Ireland‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.