A £209 million European Union (EU) fund has been launched aimed at improving cross-border co-operation between western Scotland, Northern Ireland and the border region of Ireland.
The fund is open to applications from projects working across the three regions in the fields of research and innovation, the environment, sustainable transport and health, and will support activity from now until 2020.
The Interreg Va programme was launched in Belfast by Scottish Infrastructure and Investment Secretary Keith Brown, Northern Ireland Finance Minister Mervyn Storey and Ireland Finance Minister Brendan Howlin.
“PEACE IV and INTERREG VA will build on the achievements of the previous special EU programme by contributing further to the positive changes and improvement to the lives of local people,” said Mr Storey.
“The £199million PEACE IV Programme, which has a strong emphasis on children and young people, will promote community cohesion while the £209million INTERREG VA Programme will offer even greater cross-jurisdictional benefits for Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.
MEP Jim Nicholson said: “
“We must now get the most out of both EU programmes. To help maximise the impact of the funding on the ground Stormont ministers and local officials must deliver on their pledge to cut red-tape – complex and burdensome bureaucracy added locally has been a problem with previous programmes.
European colleague Diane Dodds (DUP) added that her party had also promoted tackling unemployment and exclusion among young people as a key aspect of the new Programme.
“Therefore we are delighted that one of the four new strands engages children and young people directly. There are also major opportunities for projects involving shared spaces and services, building positive relations, and shared education.”