The EESC adopted at its February plenary session an opinion supporting the continuation of the European Peace and Reconciliation Programme (PEACE) in Northern Ireland after the UK's withdrawal from the EU. This continued support is considered as crucial given the sensitivity of the debate on the UK/Ireland border in the context of the Brexit negotiations.
The opinion, drafted by Jane Morrice, states that "the urgency of the situation created by the Brexit process and the eventual UK withdrawal requires an EU response to safeguard the peace process which matches the new needs of the region in the post-Brexit context". It recommends not only maintaining the PEACE programme as proposed, but also extending its lifespan, as conflict resolution will take time and require longer-term commitment than current funding cycles.
The EESC says consideration should be given to placing a greater focus on communication activities to ensure citizens are fully aware of the positive role of the EU. It also suggests using the WhiteDove brand to symbolise PEACE-funded projects, establishing a link with an opinion to be presented by Jane Morrice at the EESC plenary in March entitled The WhiteDoveWay: Proposal for an EU-led global peace-building strategy. This opinion proposes the establishment of a European path of peace from Northern Ireland to Nicosia, in Cyprus, called the WhiteDoveWay, which would follow the path of the Irish pilgrim Columbanus connecting with other routes such as the Western Front Way and through the Balkans to link the two divided islands on either side of Europe. (dgf)