07/07/2005

Belfast hosts two-day EU meeting

Belfast is hosting a two-day Ministerial Meeting of European Union (EU) Employment and Social Policy Ministers, as part of the UK’s Presidency of the EU, which commenced on July 1.

Secretary of State, Peter Hain, who welcomed Ministers from across the 25 EU countries to Belfast today, said it was gratifying that one of the first events of the UK's Presidency was being held in Northern Ireland.

“Never before has Northern Ireland hosted a European Union meeting at this level. It is also fitting as Northern Ireland is one of the regions of the UK which has received most support from our membership of the EU,” Mr Hain said.

“The theme of Thursday and Friday’s meeting is: ‘Increasing Employment and Improving Social Inclusion’. It will focus on employment and social policy issues, especially in relation to young people, older workers and those in long-term unemployment.”

Meanwhile, Mr Hain has congratulated London on winning the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

Following the announcement on Wednesday, the Secretary of State described the news as “fantastic”.

"It is a reflection of the enthusiastic support for the bid from around the regions of the UK and Northern Ireland can be justly proud that it played its full part. We recognised, at an early stage, the many benefits which London’s success would bring to Northern Ireland, not only for sport but also for the economy,” Mr Hain said.

"When this week’s excitement has calmed down, it will be time to look in more detail at the opportunities which will be on offer to Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State said that in the run up to the games competing nations would need to acclimatise and prepare for the Games and as such Northern Ireland could offer competitors, coaches, administrators and friends “a warm welcome, good training facilities and a unique opportunity to experience our wide and varied culture”.

(MB/GB)

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