Following its meeting with the European Economic and Social Council’s EU-UK Follow-Up Committee, the Ad-Hoc Group for North-South and East-West Cooperation made the following statement:
The Ad-Hoc Group for North-South and East-West Cooperation was very grateful to the EESC’s EU-UK Follow-up Committee for giving it the opportunity to share its concerns that proposals regarding engagement of the mechanisms established by the Protocol with civic society do not exclude representation from civic society organisations in the Republic of Ireland on matters regarding cross-border cooperation.
Not only must a space for engagement on cross-border cooperation be created in order to ensure proper monitoring of the commitments made under Article 11 of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, but it must also guarantee the involvement of civic society voices from the Republic of Ireland. To engage exclusively with civic society in Northern Ireland on matters regarding cross-border cooperation would not only go totally against the principles of cross-border cooperation itself, it would also perpetuate a vision of civic society in Northern Ireland as isolated from its relations with its neighbours across the border on the island of Ireland, as well as neighbours in Great Britain, and partners in the rest of the European Union.
As many if not all the organisations involved in the Ad-Hoc Group cooperate not just with counterparts in the other jurisdiction on the island of Ireland, but also with counterparts in Great Britain, we would also wish to see the mechanisms for civic society engagement established under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement being
capable of including the East-West dimension of cooperation. This dimension is of great importance to civic society organisations from across the island of Ireland, and it is also part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Therefore, we would call for the Committee’s support in our efforts to ensure the European Commission and the UK Government establish a dedicated forum for engagement with civic society from both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland to monitor the commitments made under Article 11 of the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol, and that the East-West dimension of cooperation is given proper protection through the mechanisms for civic society engagement under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.