Conference on Ireland and the eu 29th

Download 19.44 Kb.
Size19.44 Kb.
Conference on Ireland and the EU

29th October 2011

Thank you for your kind invitation to speak today. I am delighted to be here.

The title of this Conference is Ireland and the EU – can we understand each other. In addition to talking about CFSP and the current travails of the euro, I was asked to talk about engaging with young people.

I would like to make a point, given that I am here, in a University, on a Saturday, on a Bank Holiday weekend. If you are all here, I think you are engaged.

Let me speak a bit about how I see it. I grew up in a politically aware home, public issues were discussed and I always had a point of view. I made a decision quite early on that Fine Gael was where I belonged, and when I was in college I joined and became very involved. I believe that it is the responsibility of everyone to get engage with how we are governed.

My own experience of involvement in Fine Gael created terrific opportunities for me. From the beginning as a student I became involved in the youth movement of the European Peoples Party and attended many of their events.

It always surprises me that there is so little understanding among political commentators of the strength and importance of the international ties of Irish political parties. One of the reasons why Fianna Fail never really had any international political networks is that they were members in the European Parliament of a group which contained a rag-bag of right-wing, mildly Eurosceptic parties, the composition of which changed with each election. I know they joined the Liberals relatively recently which was an excellent idea, but I don’t think they had the time to engage with them on a meaningful level, before they were washed away.

But for the Labour party, which is a member of the European Social Democrats and for Fine Gael which is a member of the European Peoples Party, these international relationships are part of daily life. The relationships which are built up within the European Peoples Party allow leaders to understand each other, to understand what the other’s priorities and pressures are. This is a crucial part of the European process.

That is at the top of the heap, but equally important is what goes on among ordinary party members. When I was a student I immediately got involved in the EPP. I attended many of their events, both formal and informal. Against the background of the Irish political scene, this was an eye-opener for me. The real challenge in political involvement is to work out for oneself a coherent set of beliefs and commitments. What is truly valuable is to be able to argue out that belief set, with people who share the same fundamental values, but whose experiences are different.

Yes, my choices were my own, and you may not share them. But what I am saying to you is that you can and should engage. The European involvement is a critical part of our daily life and anyone who cares about what happens needs to know what is going on. It might come to you but it is far more likely that you need to go to it. It is no one else’s job to inform you - it is your job to inform yourself

Because of the complexity of the EU, there is a tendency to neglect the human element of the European institutions, which is to ignore the central role that Irishmen and women play in the success of the European project.

There have only been five Secretaries General of the European Commission. Of these two have been Irish. The current Secretary General is Catherine Day. In the new EU diplomatic service, the European External Action Service, the current Chief Operations Officer, David O’Sullivan is Irish.

Currently Ireland is well represented in the middle and upper management level of the EU institutions.

However, there are insufficient numbers of officials of Irish nationality at more junior grades. This, coupled with the retirement of many officials of Irish nationality, will see numbers falling in the coming years.

However, there are opportunities for young Irish professionals to seek employment in Brussels. In the next 7 years The European Parliament will renew nearly 50% of its staff; why shouldn’t a respectable number of them be Irish?

One of the objectives of the Irish Government is to boost Ireland’s engagement with the European Union at all levels. Having a steady flow of high quality Irish candidates entering the EU institutions is not only beneficial to Ireland but beneficial to the EU.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of the Taoiseach have been working to encourage Irish candidates to apply for the EU level career opportunities.

A mailing list has been set up to which those interested in getting updates on EU careers opportunities can sign up. Should you be interested the email is EUJOBS@TAOISEACH.IE

In the last number of years ‘Europe’ and the ‘EU’ have fallen from favour in Ireland. In people’s minds they have become linked to a loss of sovereignty.

The crisis has resulted in a downplaying of the very positive role that the EU has played in the development of Ireland over of past 40 years and also of the central role Ireland and Irish people have played in the EU.

Let us never forget that the ‘European Project’ is an Irish project just as much as it is a Danish or German project.

This project is too often misconstrued as just an economic undertaking, a source of funds for roads and farming.

But in fact peace in Europe is the greatest measure of the success of the European project.

This project may have its foundations in the era of post-war reconstruction, but it is not defined by the wars of the past. It is defined by cooperation.

The European project has created a level of cooperation between countries that is without parallel in history. This cooperation has allowed the EU to become the most successful force for democratisation and peace in the world today.
The Common Foreign and Security policy has been at the core of that co-operation and has always reflected our traditional foreign policy priorities: the preservation of international peace and security, the development of and consolidation of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Ireland continues its proud tradition of involvement in peacekeeping operations, and Irish troops are currently participating in a number of international missions including Lebanon (UNIFIL), Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR), Kosovo (KFOR) and Afghanistan (ISAF). Irish police and civilian experts also participate in a wide range of EU and UN missions.

A particular priority for Ireland in the development of the CSDP has been enhancing EU-UN cooperation and we will continue to look for practical ways in which the EU can contribute to international UN peacekeeping efforts. We are convinced that the CSDP can only operate effectively if it does so in close partnership with other international actors, not only the UN, but also NATO, the OSCE and the African Union. As you may be aware Ireland will take over the Chair of the OSCE in January and so we will be working very hard indeed on these pressing concerns

Finally – the Euro crisis. I have been in Brussels four times in the last two weeks. On Thursday Europe has finally demonstrated the political leadership needed to end the Euro crisis. The three-pronged deal announced early on Thursday morning came as the result of European leaders seizing the initiative and displaying a determination to confront the reality facing the society, economy and people of this continent.

Wednesday’s summit marked a resolve to deal with the shared problems we face which, up to that point, had been lacking. Now we have to harness this momentum and push harder than ever before to achieve growth and prosperity across the continent.

Many hard decisions lie ahead. We still have a long way to go to emerge from this crisis. But on Wednesday we saw for the first time what we have all craved since this nightmare began in 2008 – leadership.

In closing, I am always struck by how little we appreciate how exceptional the EU is.

Yeats spoke of ‘great hatred, little room’ for our own troubles in Ireland. He could have been speaking of the European continent for much of its history. Yet, in the middle of the last century something changed: hard-fought consensus displaced the all-too-easy descent into conflict, and what has developed is truly exceptional.

Unthinkable a few short generations ago, Europe has turned away from war. Even as the hammers and hands of East and West Germans tore down the Berlin Wall those twenty years ago, European leaders were already opening up the prospect of membership to those countries in our continent that suffered under despotism and dictatorship.

Europeans seem unaware of the concrete and tangible change that the European project has effected on its borders. In the Western Balkans today Europeans, Irish men and women among them, are working together to heal the divisions of a bloody and awful conflict, and though progress is slow, there is progress. We Irish know, more than most, that there is nothing greater that we can make than peace; nothing more fragile, nothing more powerful. Since the inception of the European project, Europeans have been doing just that.

Ireland has been a part of that, Ireland is a part that, and that is something we can be proud of.

Download 19.44 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2023
send message

    Main page