Peadar Ó Lamhna examines the Irish presidencey of the European Union

From January 1st 2013, viagra Ireland assumed the Presidency of the Council of European Union for the 7th time since Ireland joined the European Economic Community 40 years ago. But what does the Presidency mean for the ordinary Joe or Josephine Bloggs on the street? What impact will it have on the daily lives of Irish Citizens who are generally see the European Union as getting further and further away from being accountable to the Irish public?

Launching the Presidency, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, An Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore and Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton highlighted the priorities of the Irish Presidency – Stability, Jobs and Growth. In the Irish Presidency document the Government states that their priorities will be to ensure lasting stability throughout the Union, starting with the necessary renewal of economic governance in Europe. Key areas for progress will be a

Banking Union and financial services reform.  With regards jobs, the Irish Presidency will place a spotlight on youth unemployment throughout

their six month term of office. The Government intends to ensure momentum behind the Youth Employment and Social Investment Packages and secure agreement on decisions in the areas of health, mobility and education. The Government states that their essential approach will reflect the best of the previous Irish Presidencies – which have always been regarded as being honest, open and transparent, striving for efficiency and with a firm focus on results.

On the other side of the argument, Euro Skeptic MEP Nigel Farage of UKIP stated that Ireland’s role of holding the Presidency as being nothing more than hosting a few meetings with some nice tea and sandwiches thrown in for good measure. Whilst the importance of the rotating Presidency has decreased some what since Belgian Herman Van Rompuy was appointed permanent President of the Council to stop the heads of government bickering like 27 ten year olds in a playground, the rotation allows for countries to put forward their own agendas such as negotiations in CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) and marine quotas, which no doubt Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney TD will try to use to his advantage during his six months at the helm of the Council of Agricultural Ministers.

Council meetings and negotiations during the Irish Presidency will no doubt be regarded as hostile amongst certain member states. Last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron gave an historic speech on the future of the UK in the Union. The certainty of a UK in/out referendum by 2017 will no doubt leave the Unions future uncertain and will have significant implications for Council meetings in the near future. The thought of a country leaving the union would make Schuman and Monet, the founding fathers of the Union, uneasy if they were alive today.

2013 also marks the European Year of the Citizen which was launched in Dublin City Hall on January 10th at a special event attended by Commission President, Jose Manuel Barrosso and his Vice President, Viviane Reding, and Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton TD who engaged with over 200 citizens in the Citizens’ Dialogue which was moderated by Pat Kenny. Questions such as the bank bailout, the future of the Euro, Citizens’ Rights and the future of Europe all dominated discussions with Commissioner Reding stating that Citizens’ Dialogues will be taking place across Europe throughout the year. Minister of State Lucinda Creighton told the audience present that the Irish Government planned a series of European roadshows throughout the country with the next one taking place in Cork on Friday, 15 February 2013.

Finally, European Movement Ireland launched a Young Journalists Programme to cover the Presidency from the prospective of 18-25 year olds which shows a growing interest in the concerns of young people.