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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)

[:] This is not written in my speech and I am known for adding to written speeches sometimes. Many colleagues in national parliaments and in the European Parliament do not know what the European semester is. It has nothing to do with academic education. In the future Ministers for Finance must, under the framework for the European semester, submit their draft budgets to Brussels before the national parliaments adopt it. In Brussels, civil servants from the Commission will look at the draft budgets of the Irish, the Germans, the Italians, of all members states of the European Union, and they will analyse it on the basis of the so-called "annual growth survey", which is not a criterion adopted by the European Parliament. That means concretely that the Irish draft budget will be evaluated by civil servants of the Commission on the basis of criteria they have themselves developed. This is deparliamentarisation and therefore we are not adversaries, the national parliamentarians and the European Parliament. We must build a complementary framework between national parliaments and the European Parliament to make the European semester democratic. Therefore, this parliamentarian week is an important step for more democracy in Europe.

Almost 40 years since Ireland joined the EU, Ireland has been transformed from a country primarily trading with the United Kingdom only to an export-led high technology economy deeply rooted within the solid foundations of the European Union. We in the European Parliament look forward to working closely with Ireland as it takes on the Presidency of the Council at a crucial time. No doubt, the last few years have been very hard and mistakes have been made but I believe in their hearts and minds, Irish people are true Europeans. Europe is on Ireland's side and Ireland can be proud of its true European vocation. Europe is not a thing we can play with. Europe is an idea, a fascinating one. It is an idea of solidarity, mutual trust and respect and capacity. In our work together in common institutions between bigger and smaller member states to find always a fair deal, saving face for everyone by way of compromise becomes a common decision in the end. That is what we need, the combined power for 27, soon to be 28 nations that are prepared to work across the borders between nations to face the challenges of the 21st century. No country, neither Germany nor Ireland, can manage alone.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett It gives me great pleasure to call the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Eamon Gilmore.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I thank President Martin Schulz for his address and for the support he has expressed for our national effort, his words of encouragement and his inspiring thoughts. His presence in the Chamber on his first visit to Ireland since taking office as President of the European Parliament and the exchange of views we are having this morning demonstrate the vital and complementary role national parliaments and the European Parliament play in providing democratic oversight and accountability within the European Union. This role has never been more important as the European Union takes further steps towards closer integration in response to the crisis that we collectively face.

It is a particular honour for me too to welcome a President of the European Parliament from the same broad political family and tradition, a tradition that has made an immense contribution to the development of the Union over decades. President Schulz has spoken of ensuring that solidarity and democracy take precedence over the rights of the more powerful, of reconciling the interests of the smaller and larger states, of north and south, of east and west, putting the welfare of everyone above the vested interests of the few. In doing so, he has spoken of an approach that needs to be re-asserted at the heart of our Europe.

In less than 100 days Ireland takes over the Presidency of the Council of European Union for the seventh time. As in the past, our focus will be on managing the business of the Council in an efficient, responsible and impartial manner and on representing fairly and openly the positions arrived at in Council. Given the scale of the challenges facing Europe today, we recognise the seriousness of the task and the Government is approaching it with determination. We also see the importance of demonstrating that each member state, whether large or small, can effectively discharge its responsibilities as Presidency and that we can prove the continuing value and relevance of the Community method of decision-making which has served us so well in the past.

Since our last Presidency in 2004, the European Union has undergone profound change. Most obviously, the Union has grown from 15 to 27 member states, soon to be 28, and operates in a wider and more complex environment. With the introduction of the Lisbon treaty reforms, the legislative and budgetary responsibilities of the European Parliament have been significantly enhanced and it is clear that the Presidency now plays a particular role in managing the relationship between the Council and the European Parliament. During our Presidency, we will be looking to President Schulz for his guidance, goodwill and support as we work together on what promises to be a busy legislative programme. On our part, I can promise you that we will approach our relations with the Parliament in an open, constructive and cooperative spirit. Now more than ever, we need to show to our citizens that the European institutions can respond rapidly and effectively to their needs. Failure to do so will undermine the very foundations of the European Union and the unique model of co-operation we have developed over the past 50 years.

We are taking on the Presidency of the European Council at a critical time. As the President said, more needs to be done than just budgetary discipline to get our country and our continent out of the economic difficulties we currently face. That is why the decisions made on 29 June, particularly decisions relating to the separation of bank and sovereign debt and decisions on the compact for jobs and growth are so critically important. In deciding the priorities of our Presidency, our emphasis will be on those proposals that promote growth and employment in a community based on a spirit of solidarity. We must provide jobs to those who are currently unemployed and those who will soon commence the search for employment.

The youth transitions package, which we expect to see published by the Commission in December, will offer an opportunity for Europe to focus in a practical way on an item that is sadly a feature at the top of both the Council’s and the Parliament’s agenda. I am speaking of course of youth unemployment. We must equip our young people with the skills they need to take up the jobs of the future and to manage the transition into the workplace. There is hardly an issue that can be more important for Europe, its institutions and member states, than to try to help our young people realise their potential, and collectively to push back against the wasted capacity that unemployment, including youth unemployment, represents.

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