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Address by H.E. Mr. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament

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Address by H.E. Mr. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament

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Address by H.E. Mr. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament

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Deputy Micheál Martin

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Snippet Contents:

It also was a good example of the passion, candour and frankness of the President's approach. The seriousness of the issues facing Europe at present is such that I am glad we have not allowed today's session merely to be an exchange of formalities. In recent years, perhaps there has been too much formality, too much of going through the motions and nowhere near enough leadership or urgency. The President's address to this Parliament today was devoid of such an approach and rather, he spoke candidly, honestly and openly about many of the issues that face us collectively across Europe. Europe must face up to hard truths about what has gone wrong and what is required to return to growth and job creation. The price of failing to do this already is being felt by millions through the Union and could affect many millions more, as the President noted.
Were the President to look back through the history of Ireland’s engagement with the European Union, he would find we always have been suspicious of the European Parliament. In treaty negotiations, we always have favoured retaining as much power as possible in the Council. This has been because of a fear that the Parliament is less open to being influenced by smaller nations and groups. Even with the introduction of majority voting, Ireland's ability to be heard and to have an impact in the Council is undeniably higher than it is in the Parliament. It is important to note that many steps have been and are taken in the Parliament to address this concern, especially with the groups helping the smaller delegations to be heard. Our MEPs retain a strong direct link with the people and as a result the Parliament retains a higher status here than in some other member states. Arguments about the appropriate balance between the powers of the Parliament and the Council have been at the centre of nearly three decades of debate. Recent treaties have further increased the powers of the Parliament and the balance appears to be working. However, the undeniable fact is that most of the time spent on arguments about the balance between institutions of the Union has been wasted. It has been a major and ongoing distraction from addressing core flaws in the powers and policies of the Union which lie at the heart of today’s crisis. These are flaws which still threaten the very foundations of the euro and possibly the Union itself.
I speak as the leader of a party which has always been unequivocal in its support of the great idea that only by working together can European states prosper. As far back the 1930s, one of my predecessors, Sean Lemass, referred to this being essential in tackling Europe’s then crisis. He subsequently lodged Ireland's application for membership, a decision which was vindicated in the growth and rising living standards which membership of the Union enabled. In the President's address, he articulated very well that progress and sense of opening up that occurred in Ireland as a result of its joining the Union itself. Earlier this year, my party took the principled stand of putting aside partisan considerations by campaigning for ratification of the fiscal treaty. However, what we are not is uncritical. My party does not accept the idea that the job of pro-Europeans is to stay quiet and cheer from the sidelines no matter what is happening and what is happening today is that Europe’s leaders are making this crisis much worse by their refusal to take action which is sufficiently ambitious, courageous or comprehensive. From the very outset of this crisis, there has been a search to do the minimum possible to muddle through the crisis. Only at moments where collapse has looked possible have essential decisions been taken. A vicious cycle in which problems are only addressed when a collapse seems imminent, the solutions are oversold, complacency sets in and deals are allowed to unravel, has not yet been broken. One of the most serious impacts of this failure of leadership has been a dramatic decline in public satisfaction with the Union and belief in its core purpose.