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McGuinness and Paisley secure extension of life of EU Taskforce

10 January, 2008

Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley and have secured the commitment of EU Commission President Jose Barroso to extend the life of the special EU taskforce set up in May of last year.

Speaking at the conclusion of their successful two-day visit to Brussels, the Ministers said the extension of the taskforce was a further example of Europe's ongoing high level commitment to the region.

Following the meeting with President Barroso at his offices in Brussels, Mr McGuinness said:

"Since the president's visit in May last year five of our EU programmes, totalling some €2 billion, have been agreed by the commission and the taskforce has been instrumental in helping us to get those programmes agreed so speedily.

"This money will help us to deliver our Programme for Government and to build an innovative economy.

"In the last year our Ministers and officials have made several visits to Brussels, and in return we have welcomed the Commission to our shores on a number of occasions.

"These meetings have seen considerable development of ideas and proposals that will enable us to avail of a wide range of EU initiatives."

During their visit the First Minister and deputy First Minister also met with Commissioner for the Regions, Danuta Hubner. The Commissioner made a personal commitment to place a talented individual in her cabinet from here as part of the EU Stagaire Intern Programme.

Mr McGuinness said:

"This is a tremendous opportunity for an individual to take up a very prestigious role in Ms Hubner's cabinet to gain practical experience of working in the commission at the highest level."

The Ministers concluded their visit to the commission by meeting Agriculture Commissioner Fischer Boel, where they were joined by Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew.

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