At the meeting of the European Council in Brussels on 7/8 February 2013, EU Heads of State and Government agreed to the inclusion of a special allocation of €150 million for a new PEACE Programme in the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2014-2020. This special allocation, which was not provided for in the European Commission’s original MFF proposal, was included following the intervention of the Irish Government. The MFF is subject to the agreement of the European Parliament.
I very much welcome the European Council decision to make funding available for a new PEACE Programme. The PEACE Programmes have made a significant contribution to supporting reconciliation, to the creation of a shared society, and to addressing the legacy of the troubles. Significant challenges remain, however, and addressing them is important for the longer term viability of the peace process.
The final size of the next PEACE programme, which will also include funding from Ireland and the UK, will be determined following the programme planning process. The planning process for a possible successor Programme for PEACE III was initiated in April 2012, with my Department and the Department of Finance and Personnel asking the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) to commence preparation of detailed programme proposals in close consultation with the relevant Government Departments.
The development of the new programme proposals is being overseen by a Programme Development Steering Group chaired by SEUPB and consisting of representatives of Government Departments, local Government, and the trade union, business, rural and community and voluntary sectors. A public consultation process on potential priorities and content of the Programme ran from 28 August to 20 November 2012. Following consideration of the consultation responses, a draft Operational Programme for PEACE IV will be prepared and a further public consultation on the draft Programme will be held in early to mid 2013.
It is intended that both Operational Programmes for PEACE IV and INTERREG V will be presented to the Northern Ireland Executive, the Irish Government and the Scottish Government during 2013. Formal submission to the European Commission for approval will take place following agreement of the three Governments.