Belfast Telegraph

Stormont 'missing out on EU cash'

Stormont departments are missing out on EU funds due to a dislike of filling in application forms, the First Minister said.

The often complex paperwork that has to be completed to access certain EU programmes is also dissuading universities and private sector businesses from engaging with Brussels, Peter Robinson told his scrutiny committee.

The DUP leader said this attitude must be overcome if Northern Ireland is to make the most out of Europe.

"Are we getting as much as we can get out of Europe, the answer is quite clearly is no we are not," he told members of the committee for the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM).

"I believe we have underperformed in Europe."

He added: "Departments have not made a number of submissions that they should have made and there seems to be a sense in government departments, and I'll not be specific but it's fairly clear with our discussion with a number of the commissioners ... that departments are faced with putting in submissions which can be a daunting task."

Mr Robinson said the EU was taking steps to make the process more "user friendly" but he said potential applicants here also had to up their game.

"There is a significant uplift that I think we can get in terms of our funding from Europe if we start being more proactive within departments and ensuring that we put those applications in," he said.

"We came back (from a recent meeting in Brussels) very clearly of the view that there was a lot of work that needed to be done." He said the Northern Ireland Executive office in Brussels had done great work in facilitated links.

Mr Robinson added: "But it requires every government department here to be going after the opportunities that are there rather than holding back because they don't like form filling."

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