Select Committee on European Scrutiny Forty-First Report


21. INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR IRELAND


(23796)

11618/02

COM(02)472


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
Committee's decision:Cleared


Background

  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 throughout Ireland.

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.

The document

  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."

Conclusion

  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.


 
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