21. INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR IRELAND
Draft Council Regulation on Community financial contributions to the International Fund for Ireland in 2003 and 2004.
|Legal base:||Article 308 EC; consultation; unanimity
|Document originated:||22 August 2002
|Deposited in Parliament:||27 September 2002
|Department:||Northern Ireland Office
|Basis of consideration:||EM of 21 October 2002
|Previous Committee Report:||None
|To be discussed in Council:||Not known
|Committee's assessment:||Politically important
21.1 The International Fund for Ireland was established
by the British and Irish Governments in 1986 with two objectives:
- to promote economic and social advance and
- to foster reconciliation between Unionists and Nationalists
Its main focus of operation is in Northern Ireland and the six
bordering counties in the Republic of Ireland.
21.2 The Fund has assisted some 4,700 projects of varying
size with a job creation potential of some 40,000. It has contributed
about £470 million to these projects, which in turn has levered
additional private and public sector assistance of over £1.4
billion. One of the Fund's strengths has been its willingness
to lead on pump-priming innovative initiatives.
21.3 The Fund gives priority to the most disadvantaged
areas with the highest unemployment and to cross-community led
and cross-border initiatives designed to stimulate economic regeneration.
Over 90% of the Fund's money goes to areas which have suffered
most severely from unrest and civil strife. It has helped to bring
together working groups involving over 12,000 people and over
13,000 young people have participated in cross-community/cross-border
vocational training projects with an emphasis on reconciliation.
21.4 The USA and the European Union have been the major
contributors to the Fund. Up to 2002 the USA has provided almost
US$400 million (about £256 million) and the EU _229 million
(£140 million). Other contributors have been Canada, Australia
and New Zealand. Presently there is a Bill before the US Congress
proposing a contribution of US$25 million (about £16 million)
in 2002 and Canada is considering further support. Approaches
will be made to Australia and New Zealand for further contributions
early in 2003.
21.5 The draft Regulation replaces Council Regulation
(EC) 214/2000 on Community contributions to the Fund in 2000,
2001 and 2002. It provides for EU contributions to the Fund, each
of _15 million (£9.16 million), in 2003 and 2004. It also
provides for co-ordination of Fund activity and complementary
assistance from the Structural Funds, especially the EU's PEACE
programmes (Programmes for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern
Ireland and the Border Region of Northern Ireland).
The Government's view
21.6 The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern
Ireland Office (Mr Ian Pearson) tells us:
"There is a wide acceptance, both on the island of Ireland
and in the donor countries, that the Fund has made a major impact
in assisting economic regeneration and in fostering reconciliation
through crosscommunity and cross-border contact and dialogue.
An independent evaluation of the Fund by a consortium of consultants
led by KPMG reported (2001) 'Our research has shown the International
Fund for Ireland to be a highly distinctive organization which
is able to target disadvantage and social exclusion by creating
private investment in disadvantaged communities and by targeting
cross-community and cross-border divisions.'
"The proposal by the Commission to renew its support for
a 2-year period is a very welcome endorsement of the Fund's achievements
to date and will enable it to continue with its important work."
21.7 We note the Minister's warm endorsement of the
Commission's proposal to continue contributions to the Fund for
a further two years and are content to clear the document.