“We will set up a taskforce..”

European Commission president Manuel Barroso stopped off at Stormont on his way back from the US-EU summit in Washington to confirm £600million in European funds over the next 6 years – and a new study into NI’s economy and/or a taskforce to help finalise programming of EU funds. The BBC report mistakenly suggests that Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness have already taken the posts of First and Deputy First Ministers.. Something the UTV report doesn’t do.. ANYhoo.. The Irish Foreign Affairs Minister, Dermot Ahern, who also met with Mr Barroso, has said he would be lobbying the EC president on lowering corporation tax here.. there was also a somewhat confused comment from the Secretary of State for Wales etc, Peter Hain, on that issue.. but it seems to have vanished into the ether.. Adds A fuller report, from yesterday, on Dermot Ahern’s lobbying suggests a slightly different focus than the one given in today’s reportFrom that BBC report

Mr Barroso made the announcement after meeting Northern Ireland’s first and deputy first ministers.

He said a new study would be held into NI’s economy to examine how entrepreneurship could be encouraged.

He also confirmed that about £600m of European funds would be devoted to NI and the Republic’s border counties.

The money will be given over the next six years.

Mr Barroso said: “We will set up a taskforce in the commission to help finalise the programming of European Union funds so Northern Ireland can benefit from the experience across the EU in creating growth, jobs, innovation and opportunity.”

Update From the added report

Dermot Ahern, the Republic`s Foreign Affairs Minister, warned of the potential threat to inward investment from any such policy.[a common European corporation tax]

And he pledged to deliver a clear message to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso when the pair meet, along with Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain, at Stormont tomorrow.

Mr Ahern`s fears have been fuelled by EU Taxation Commissioner Laszlo Kovacs`s studies in favour of a common corporate tax base.

He said: “Make no mistake we need to step up our efforts to stop a system of common corporate taxes being introduced within the European Union.

“This has become one of the crucial issues facing Ireland and I intend pointing out in no uncertain terms to President Barroso that the (Irish) Government is completely opposed to Commissioner Kovacs`s campaign.

“It is wrong and we will resist it along with other like-minded countries in Europe.”