During his visit to NI, Jacques Delors, then EC President, declared that he would seize every opportunity to engage the EC in contributing to peace and reconciliation in NI.
Throughout the autumn of 1994, during the NI ceasefires, the EC through Jacques Delors established a special 23-person Commission Task Force. This was tasked to identify how the EU could best support the prospect of lasting peace by providing practical assistance to NI and the border counties of Ireland in consultation with the two Member States.
This was in essence the preparation of what would eventually become PEACE I. The Task Force report was issued in December 1994, in time for endorsement by the December European Council in Essen, Germany. This was also the last European Council of Jacques Delors as President of the EC.
Jacques Santer, President of the EC, visited NI and Ireland in April 1995 accompanied by the European Commissioner for Regional Affairs, Monika Wulf-Mathies. They attended the European Parliament Information Conference ‘Implementing Europe's Programme for Peace’ in Belfast during that visit to discuss the EU's PEACE Initiative.
EU Parliamental approval of the Special Programme for Peace and Reconciliation (PEACE I), which came into effect in July 1995 and provided a substantive package of measures providing a very tangible peace dividend and testimony of European solidarity. Total funding allocation: €667m (€500m EU Contribution).
On Good Friday George Mitchell stated: "I am pleased to announce that the two governments and the political parties in Northern Ireland have reached agreement". The agreement, known as the Belfast Good Friday Agreement (GFA), included a devolved, inclusive government, prisoner release, troop reductions, targets for paramilitary decommissioning, provisions for polls on Irish reunification, and civil rights measures and "parity of esteem" for the two communities in NI. The GFA was to be approved by a referendum in NI, and a separate referendum was to be held in Ireland to approve the necessary change to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution (1999).
The Northern Ireland Assembly was established as part of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement (GFA). The NI Assembly is the cornerstone of the devolved Northern Ireland government. The first meeting took place in July 1998.
The NSMC was established under the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement (1998) to develop consultation, co-operation and action within the island of Ireland.
In March 1999, the PEACE II Programme (2000-2004) was introduced as a Structural Fund Programme to build on the success of PEACE I. Total funding allocation: €835m (€531m EU Contribution).
The SEUPB is one of the six cross-border bodies set up under the Belfast GFA (1998), responsible for the management and administration of the PEACE Programme on behalf of the two Member States.
The Government continue temporary 'Gap funding' (initially for a 6-month period) to projects and groups funded under PEACE I to allow time for the new SEUPB to establish the PEACE II Programme. In 2002, Government extends its administration of Gap funding to PEACE I projects.
On 14 October 2002, the NI Assembly was suspended and direct rule from Westminster imposed. It remained suspended until 8 May 2007. This was largely due to continuing violence, doubts among loyalists and uncertainty about decommissioning.
A two-year extension was awarded to bring the programme in line with the seven-year EU Structural Fund cycle, known as the PEACE II Extension. Total funding allocation: €160m (€78m EU Contribution).
The St Andrews Agreement is an agreement between the British and Irish governments and NI’s political parties in relation to the devolution of power in the region. The agreement resulted in the restoration of the NI Assembly, the formation (on 8 May 2007) of a new NI Executive.
Commission President Barroso set up a Task Force within the Commission in order to examine how NI could benefit more from EU policies, and how it could participate more actively in the EU policy process in order to generate more prosperity.
The PEACE III Programme carried forward the key aspects of the previous PEACE Programmes, with a continued and renewed emphasis on reconciliation. PEACE III advanced social and economic stability in NI and the border counties of Ireland by supporting actions that promoted cohesion between communities. The reduced budget brought with it a more focused approach. Total funding allocation: €333m (€225m EU Contribution).
The Hillsborough Agreement was an agreement that allowed the devolution of policing and justice powers to the NI Executive.
The Committee for the Office of First and Deputy First Ministers (OFMDFM) sought to establish how the NI Assembly and the NI Executive could improve interaction with the European institutions and raise the profile of Northern Ireland. The recommendations aimed to improve the future cohesiveness, direction and influence of Northern Ireland in Europe.
A political accommodation between the British and Irish Governments and a majority of parties that make up the NI Executive. The Stormont House Agreement intended to bind the parties and communities closer together on resolving identity issues, coming to a settlement on welfare reform, and on making government finance in NI more sustainable.
In line with the Europe 2020 strategy the EC requires that all of the new 2014-2020 programmes be more ‘concentrated’. It is evident that the PEACE IV is focused on a narrower range of activities, when compared to previous programmes, to ensure that there is sufficient available funding to bring about significant change. Total funding allocation: €269m (€229m EU Contribution).
The European Parliament passed a resolution in November 2014 on the peace process that underlines the urgent need to encourage further reconciliation and help stimulate greater economic and social development across NI and the border counties of Ireland.
The report attests to a process of integration over the past 7 years on the part of NI into the EU's main policies, programmes and projects. In his introduction to the Report, President Barroso, said: "Over the past sixty years, the European project has shown that it is possible for peoples and nations to come together across communities and across borders. There is no more striking modern example of this in Europe than that which has occurred both within Northern Ireland, and in its relations with its neighbours to the south. Northern Ireland can count on the European Commission in its efforts to ensure lasting peace and prosperity".
The Stormont House Agreement led to the Fresh Start Agreement to deal with the impact of continued paramilitary activity. It built on previous political agreements and brought closer the goal of a NI where politics works, the economy grows and society is stronger.
On 23 June 2016, UK voted to leave the EU by 52% for Leave to 48% to Remain.
The NI Executive collapsed on 9 January 2017 with the resignation of the Deputy First Minister.
Formally starting a 2-year countdown to the UK exiting the EU.
The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier delivered a keynote address, highlighting the advantages of EU funding for the region. Importantly, he stated that “Northern Ireland should be able to retain access to the EU's PEACE funding Programme set up to support the peace process after Brexit”.
The current PEACE IV and INTERREG VA (2014-2020) Programmes will be replaced by a single successor Programme, known as The PEACE PLUS Programme, a new cross-border EU Funding Programme for the period 2021-2027.
The UK stopped being a member of the EU on 31 January 2020 after 47 years of membership and an 11-month transition period ended in December 2020.
New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) agreement (launched 9 January 2020) to restore the government of the NI Executive after a three-year deadlock. All political parties entitled to join the restored NI government opted to do so, creating a new 5-party executive (DUP, Sinn Féin, Alliance Party, SDLP, UUP).
In preparation of delivering a new Programme for the period 2021 to 2027.
On the 10th March 2021, SEUPB launched a Public Consultation on the PEACE PLUS Programme. It sets out 6 thematic areas of focus for the new Programming Period.
PEACE PLUS is a new EU cross-border programme that will contribute to a more prosperous and stable society in NI and the border counties of Ireland. The programme will achieve this by funding activities that promote peace and reconciliation and contribute to the cross-border economic and territorial development of the region. It will build upon previous PEACE and INTERREG Programmes. The European Commission and the Irish Government have jointly committed €206m to the PEACE PLUS Programme with the British Government providing at least €560m (£500m) to the Programme. With the Executive €150m (£134m) and Irish Government €52m providing additional match funding, this will now result in a total PEACE PLUS Programme budget of approximately €1bn.