Members of European Parliament (MEPs) backed a resolution on Tuesday, saying that European Union (EU) regional development funds should continue to be allocated to support the peace process in Northern Ireland post-Brexit.
Adopting the non-legislative resolution by 565 votes in favour to 51 against, with 65 abstentions, MEPs said that continuing the programs of PEACE and Interreg VA after Brexit would be crucial to peace development in Northern Ireland.
"Since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, Northern Ireland has been on a path of peace and we should remember that along that path they have been helped by the European Union," said rapporteur Derek Vaughan during a Monday debate on the resolution.
Recalling that Northern Ireland has benefited from various EU cohesion policy programs, Vaughan said that the Interreg and the PEACE Programs can and should remain.
"EU funds are seen as neutral... and are accepted by all communities and put to good use because they don't come from the UK, they don't come from the Irish government. They come from the European Union," Vaughan said.
The 270-million-euro (313-million-U.S.-dollar) PEACE program, created in 1995 as the EU's positive response to a ceasefire between Northern Irish paramilitary groups in 1994, sponsors projects supporting peace and stability in the region. The Interreg VA program is a 283-million-euro (328-million-dollar) initiative to help tackle border-related issues.
In addition to these two regional funding mechanisms, MEPs said they want the EU to allow young people from Northern Ireland to be able to benefit from the Erasmus+ educational programs which provide them with opportunities to study abroad.
Northern Ireland has benefited in particular from special cross-border and inter- and cross-community programs.
Since 1995, more than 1.5 billion euros (1.7 billion dollars) has been spent with an aim to promote cohesion between communities involved in the conflict in Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland, as well as economic and social stability, especially in disadvantaged, rural and border areas.