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

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 777 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny] In 2010 the European semester process was launched to help Governments overview the immediate tasks ahead and to evaluate the results of our policies aimed at reaching the Europe 2020 goals and objectives. As the Union's annual cycle of economic and fiscal policy co-ordination, the semester is clearly growing in importance. Our key focus is on the development and implementation of jointly agreed priorities. Effective management of the third European semester will be an important element of next year's Irish Presidency. We look forward to working closely with the Cypriot Presidency on settling the roadmap for the third semester cycle.

The economic crisis presented not only an economic and financial challenge but also a political one, the so-called democratic deficit of the European integration process. As a consequence of the economic crisis, governments have changed in several member states. Anti-European voices and parties have also gained strength. Too often, the language in which Europe is spoken of every day centres on words such as "troika", "bailout" and "crisis". Our Union, a coming together of countries to pursue shared goals on behalf of our citizens, risks being seen as an external entity imposing harsh measures.

We have a duty to work to ensure this does not come to pass. I acknowledge and salute the outstanding and consistent efforts of President Schulz in this regard. Fortunately, we can count on some positive examples that showcase the understanding of the benefits and added value of European co-operation, particularly at a time of crisis. The recent referendum on the stability treaty in Ireland illustrated that people can engage in the complexities of EU business and are well able to come to balanced and clear views on proposals, none of which can ever be entirely in line with the wishes of one or other member state. The Lisbon treaty made an important contribution to strengthening the democratic accountability of the European institutions through the strengthening of the European Parliament but, allowing for those positives, we are all aware of the risk that too many members of the public feel remote from the decisions and decision makers that affect their lives.

The year 2013 will mark the European year of citizens and the Irish Presidency will use the opportunity to try to engage in wider discussion on the democratic accountability of the EU and how to bring the EU closer to its citizens. Many Members of the European Parliament are engaged in similar efforts. I have listed a number of tasks that lie ahead that need the co-operation of the Irish Presidency and the European Parliament. I will have the honour of addressing the European Parliament in January when I will set out the Presidency programme to the Members. President Schulz, on behalf of the Government and the Dáil, I look forward to our co-operation next year. You have my assurance of the Irish Government's determination to work closely and collaboratively with the Parliament.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett It gives me great pleasure to call on the President of the European Parliament, Mr. Martin Schulz, to deliver his address.

A Cheann Comhairle, Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Ministers and Members of the Dáil, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour and privilege to be in the Parliament, the proud assembly of a hopeful and positive nation. Let me thank you, personally and on behalf of my institution, for this wonderful opportunity. It is an exceptional honour.

Your nation's tumultuous history, marked by many highs and lows, is the embodiment of the European experience. In the past, Ireland lived through bloody wars, saw its country invaded and its people oppressed. Ireland lived through poverty and hunger, saw its people die from starvation and others forced to emigrate. Ireland saw its national pride trampled upon; saw the Irish language forbidden and its Parliament shut down. Ireland has lived through so much of the European experience, the same suffering that motivated the founders of the European project to say that there would be no more of this and that we will start a quiet revolution. This quiet revolution has changed our world forever because the founders of our Union decided that they would not erect walls but open borders. They decided they would not crush their arch-enemy but help him to his feet and they decided they would not protect their national economies but link them closely together.

The founders of our Union decided to face the future together because they understood that together we are stronger. Indeed, together we grew stronger. We have built a project unique in human history and a tremendous success story in which enemies became friends, a region plagued by shortages developed the richest internal market in the world, and nations threw off the yoke of dictatorship and became democracies. As a German Member of the European Parliament and as a German President of the multinational assembly of parliamentarians, so we, the Germans, after all the atrocities that happened in the name of our nation, could get back to the family of democratic nations. We established the most progressive social model in the world. Yes, the European project has brought Ireland and Europe good times.

Joining the European Union nearly 40 years ago boosted the Irish economy though direct aid and increasing foreign investment. Today, 60% of Ireland's exports go to the EU. The country that had, throughout history, seen its young people depart to faraway lands became a magnet for young, well-educated Europeans. It was named the best place in the world to live in 2005. No wonder the Irish are great Europeans and the Irish people have always had a strong European commitment but it is easy to be pro-European when times are good. Being an EU member is like being in a marriage - true commitment is proven when times get tough. In Ireland times are rough, without any doubt. Still, the Irish people remain pro-European and continue to see the value of common European decision making in both the collective European and national self-interest.

Ireland has tackled its financial difficulties with determination and purpose and is putting its own house in order. Ireland is taking the very hard decisions needed to get the economy and the country back on track. Ireland has implemented tough reform programmes and cut the budget dramatically. Ireland has not only accomplished, but over-accomplished the targets the so-called troika set for Ireland. Ratification of the fiscal stability treaty by the Irish people has been another key step in this direction.

It is my personal conviction that in this Union everybody has to live up to their commitments and be responsible for keeping their own house in order. This is one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is solidarity. If one family member gets into troubled waters, the others are called upon to offer a helping hand.

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