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

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 777 No. 2

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

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett On my own behalf, and on behalf of my fellow Deputies, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to Mr. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament on this, his first visit as President. Your visit is particularly timely as Ireland prepares to take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from January next.

Before he was elected President of the European Parliament this year, Mr. Schulz had a distinguished career in European politics and as a committed and eminent parliamentarian. He was first elected as a Member of the European Parliament in 1994 where he served on the Committee for Civil Liberties and Home Affairs, as well as the Sub-Committee on Human Rights. He was elected leader of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament in 2004. As leader of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, Mr. Schulz campaigned for social justice, promoting jobs and growth, reforming financial markets, fighting climate change, championing equality and creating a stronger and more democratic Europe - ideals that we can all subscribe to and support, but ideals that are more important now than ever before.

There can be no denying that as Ireland assumes the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Europe faces a number of difficulties and trials, particularly the financial and economic crisis which has gripped many countries, including Ireland. Europe is experiencing low levels of growth and high levels of unemployment, particularly among our young people. Therefore, getting the European economy back on track is a priority for the Union. The ideals and values espoused by President Schulz are necessary if we are to confront and deal with the problems that we face. In addressing our challenges, let us remember the enduring values of solidarity, co-operation and hope which underpinned the EU’s establishment.

As a parliamentarian of long standing, and also a student of history with a keen passion for books, President Schulz will be aware that parliamentary democracy is the bedrock of peace, stability and prosperity. I share his views that closer co-operation between national parliaments and the European Parliament is a priority. Our Parliament, like others, has a crucial role to play in scrutinising the decisions and actions of government. At the same time, managing EU business through the scrutiny of the European Commission’s proposals and holding governments to account for their decisions at EU level is now a critical aspect of the work of national parliaments. Here in the Houses of the Oireachtas, EU business now forms an integral part of the work of our joint committees.

The Lisbon treaty considerably enhanced the powers of the European Parliament, making it a co-legislator with the Council in almost every area of EU law making. In addition, it has new powers in the EU budget process and in the conclusion of international agreements.

Here in Ireland I welcome the recent move to conclude a memorandum of understanding between our Parliament and the Government which will enable us to do EU business better and make best use of available resources. I understand that the memorandum is well advanced and should be in place before our Presidency begins in January.

At European level, it is only fair to acknowledge that in recent years, the role of national parliaments, and indeed the European Parliament, has been greatly strengthened. There is now a greater balance between the institutions and thus a stronger voice for Europe’s citizens in the legislative process. Of course, we recognise that the roles of national parliaments and the European Parliament may differ, but we also recognise that a close relationship and sustained inter-parliamentary co-operation is critical to ensuring that our common European system works overall.

President Schulz, we share similar visions for national parliaments and the European Parliament and I welcome your desire to strengthen dialogue and introduce a parliamentary week during which national and European parliamentarians would together take a close look at the annual growth report and the guidelines for national budgets. Not only would this lead to greater accountability by parliaments, it would also help address perceptions of a democratic deficit in Europe.

The parliamentary dimension of the EU Presidency has evolved considerably in recent years and as a parliament, we will play a key role in helping to achieve the overarching priorities for Ireland’s Presidency - to support a range of measures to secure sustainable economic growth and job creation, restore macroeconomic stability and enhance economic governance within the European Union.

There will be a strong parliamentary element to Ireland’s Presidency – the Houses of the Oireachtas will host eight inter-parliamentary meetings, to be attended by members of national parliaments and the European Parliament.

I look forward to working with the European Parliament during Ireland’s Presidency and in this context it gives me great pleasure to invite President Schulz to take his place in the Chamber and to address Members, following the Taoiseach’s statement to the House.

  H.E. Mr. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, then took his seat on the dais in the Chamber.

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