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The President and Vice Presidents of the Brussels-based organisation which advises EU law-makers will visit Northern Ireland from April 2-4. The delegation, which heads up the European Economic and Social Committee, will meet the European Ministers, the Lord Mayor of Belfast, the Speaker of the Assembly and the Chair of the Ofmdfm Committee. This is the first time the EESC Presidency has been to Northern Ireland and talks will focus on continuing EU support for the peace process and the challenges in the run-up to the European Parliament elections.
Speaking in advance of the visit, EESC President, Henri Malosse from Corsica, underlined the need to highlight the good work the EU is doing in places like Northern Ireland.
"Northern Ireland is a prime example of the positive action the European Union has taken in support of the regions," he said. "For 20 years, the EU Peace Programme has financed projects which have contributed to moving the peace process forward. There is no doubt that challenges remain", he said, "but the EU has demonstrated it is here for the long haul and the EESC wants to assure the people and the politicians they have our full support however long it takes".
Jane Morrice, who, as EESC Vice President, was instrumental in bringing the Presidency to Belfast, her home town, believes Northern Ireland should make better use of its 'special' relationship with the EU.
"Things in Brussels will change this year with a new European Parliament and Commission and we need to make sure the newcomers in high office are in tune with the needs of Northern Ireland" she said. "We in the EESC want to make that happen by ensuring that the voice of business, trade unions and the voluntary sector is heard at the highest level possible in the new administrations".
Note for editors - The 20-strong delegation will attend an event in Parliament Buildings, Stormont entitled 'In the garden of Europe' as guests of the Speaker on the evening of April 2. On April 3 they will visit the Crumlin Road Gaol, the peace walls and then go to Stormont to meet the Europe Ministers and the Chair and Members of the OFMdFM Committee. On the evening of April 3, the Lord Mayor of Belfast will host a reception for the EESC Presidency in Belfast City Hall. Following a morning meeting in the City Hall on April 4, the delegation will visit the Nomadic, as guests of the European Commission Office, and then on to the Titanic Museum.
For further information contact Jane Morrice on 07710104636 or Ulrika on 0032473842499