30/06/2004

NI voice in Europe counts says Pearson

Northern Ireland cannot afford to sleepwalk through major changes taking place in the European Union, NIO Minister Ian Pearson has said.

The Minister was speaking on Tuesday as he launched a public consultation exercise on a European Strategy for Northern Ireland.

Mr Pearson said Northern Ireland must play a full and pro-active role in Europe, to ensure that its citizens benefit fully from EU membership.

“This consultation paper will lead to the development of a European Strategy for Northern Ireland," the Minister said. "By responding to the consultation paper, people will have an opportunity to influence the role that this region plays in Europe.

“Our relationship with Europe offers us opportunities we must grasp and challenges that we must meet."

Mr Pearson was launching the document as he visited Bees Nees Early Years Centre in Newtownards. Staff there are currently taking part in a European Peace II funded networking project to develop international links between early childhood practitioners, to promote creativity, problem-solving and conflict resolution in early childhood settings.

He added: “Membership of the European Union impacts on every one of us. We must have a clear strategy for how we operate in Europe; one that aims to make the most of EU membership, not by highlighting our problems, but by demonstrating our capabilities.”

The EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Counties of Ireland, is a special programme funded by the European Union and Northern Ireland and Irish Governments to the value of €707 million. The programme’s main aim is to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Counties.

The consultation period will run from June 29 to September 28, 2004.

(MB)

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