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Bairbre de Brún encourages community response to EU funding consultation

21 December, 2006

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has urged trades unions and the community and small business sectors to ensure that their voice is heard during the consultation announced on the future shape of the £325 million EU Structural Funding package.

Ms de Brún said:

"This tranche of EU funding will run from 2007 till 2013 and with £325 million available we need to ensure that this it makes a dynamic difference in areas of greatest need.

"To do this we must take maximum benefit from the opportunities to co-operate with the growing and dynamic economy in the rest of Ireland. Cross-border co-operation must not be limited to those programmes and measures where the EU makes it clear that no money will be forthcoming without such co-operation. We need to maximise the opportunities created by the all-Ireland framework, particularly in relation to improving employability in the border regions and in urban unemployment black spots and we need to understand that competitiveness throughout the North West has been hampered by the legacy of under investment in infrastructure.

"We also need to ensure that the promotion of equality of opportunity underpins the spending of the money. This consultation is an opportunity to ensure that the criteria developed for the distribution of money not only targets money on the basis of objective need but takes full account of these realities.

"It is now up to all of us to ensure that Regional Competitiveness and Employment programmes help lead to a more prosperous future for all. That means better jobs as well as more jobs. It means balanced regional development. It means a joined-up approach and a strategy to engage those areas that have been left behind in the past, so that they can position themselves to take maximum benefit from these funds in the future.

"Late December is not an ideal launch date for a consultation that needs to have maximum input from trades unions, and the community and small business sectors. Having separate consultation dates for this and for the cross-border and peace programmes won't help either. However, if the political will is there, 2007 can still see a strategic approach to the use of EU funds for regional development for the years ahead. I would urge trades unions and the community and small business sectors to ensure that their voice is heard during the consultation, and would urge government departments to actively engage with those sectors and to listen to those voices." ENDS

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