Groups welcome EU pledge on post-Brexit cross-border peace funds

By Amy Stewart

Image caption,
Jean-Claude Juncker was speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday

Groups which benefit from EU money have welcomed the President of the European Commission's indication that funding for cross-border projects will continue after Brexit.

Jean-Claude Juncker said he could see "no more important use" of the European budget than maintaining the peace process in Ireland.

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland benefit from EU funding.

Over the years, millions of pounds have been received through Peace and Interreg projects to underpin the peace process.

The current Peace funding stream is due to run until 2020.

Edel McGinley, the director of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), said the news had gone some way to putting groups' fears at rest.

The centre's cross-border Peace IV funded project 'Crossing Borders Breaking Boundaries' launches next week.

"It's a really welcome piece of news, particularly for projects along the border and in Northern Ireland," she said.

"This is something the EU has invested in for many years and many groups like ourselves and others will be very relieved to hear that there might be another round of funding.

'Sigh of relief'

"It's important groups continue to have dialogue with each other. Our concern is migrant workers across the border region and Northern Ireland and how their rights are upheld."

She said there had been a degree of uncertainty before the announcement.

"Really people just didn't know," she said.

Image caption,
Mr Varadkar addressed the European Parliament on Wednesday

"They were very much of the view that this current round of peace funding wouldn't be touched but then, people just weren't sure. There had been no definitive answer on that either.

"So I think people will be breathing a sigh of relief and the commitment to look at renewed funding in the future is really welcomed.

"In context, the commission are gearing up to having discussions to develop the next financial framework across the EU so this announcement is timely".

The Centre for Cross Border Studies Deputy Director Anthony Soares also welcomed the news.

Image caption,
Centre for Cross Border Studies Deputy Director Anthony Soares said many groups had been concerned about funding

"Cross-border programmes are an important part of the peace and reconciliation process," he said.

He said there had been concerns from cross-border groups.

"There have been worries because a lot of community groups have relied on the support of the programme for undertaking really important work," he said.

However he said question marks still remained.

"We are yet to see the detail of what this actually means. Does this mean the UK government has to carry on contributing to the budgets to enable this to carry on or who else will pay for it?"

That said, Mr Soares said the announcement would give more certainty.

"One of the worse things community groups face is the stop start approach in terms of funding, so this enables them to get more certainty in planning for the years ahead on how they're going to carry on with their work and who is going to support it."

Jean Claude Juncker told Members of the European Parliament (MEPs): "I see no more important use of our new budget than guaranteeing and financing the peace process in Ireland.

"This is an unconditional European commitment.

"This is what the commission will deliver with our proposal for the next multiannual financial framework in May."

That could mean a fresh round of peace funding from 2020 until at least 2025.