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17 January 2008 Edition

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McGuinness and Paisley secure

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness

THE NORTH’S First and deputy First Ministers Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness have secured the commitment of EU Commission President Jose Barroso to extend the life of a special EU taskforce on the North set up in May of last year.
Speaking last week after the meeting with Barroso, Martin McGuinness said:
“Since the president’s visit in May last year five of our EU programmes, totalling some €2 billion, have been agreed by the commission and the taskforce has been instrumental in helping us to get those programmes agreed so speedily.
“This money will help us to deliver our Programme for Government and to build an innovative economy.
“In the last year our Ministers and officials have made several visits to Brussels, and in return we have welcomed the Commission to our shores on a number of occasions.
“These meetings have seen considerable development of ideas and proposals that will enable us to avail of a wide range of EU initiatives.”
During their visit the First Minister and deputy First Minister also met with Commissioner for the Regions, Danuta Hubner. The Commissioner made a personal commitment to place an individual in her cabinet from the North of Ireland as part of the EU Stagaire Intern Programme.
McGuinness said:
“This is a tremendous opportunity for an individual to take up a very prestigious role in Ms Hubner’s cabinet to gain practical experience of working in the commission at the highest level.”
The Ministers concluded their visit to the commission by meeting Agriculture Commissioner Fischer Boel, where they were joined by Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew.
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