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The Irish Presidency: for stability, jobs and growth
The first six months of 2013 will be an exciting time for Ireland as we host the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It will be a busy time, too, especially for Irish diplomats working in our Permanent Mission to the EU, but also for our embassy network including the Embassy of Ireland to the Kingdom of Belgium. As the Irish ambassador to Belgium, it is already clear to me that the presidency will add a heavy but fascinating workload for our small team here in Brussels.
We assume the presidency at a time when a nascent economic recovery is taking place in Ireland following some very difficult recent years for our economy and people. We are very well placed to know how important EU solidarity and joined-up thinking are – and will continue to be.
There is an old saying in the Irish language – ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine. Roughly translated, this means no man is an island, or we all depend on one another. The current crisis shows the need for words and actions in this regard.
While the language of EU diplomacy can often seem complex, the bottom-line objectives for the Irish presidency will be very clear – and should resonate with everyone who cares about the future of our union.
In short, we plan to use this opportunity to influence the development of areas we see as most important for Europe, namely stability, jobs and growth.
The Irish presidency will be one of realism, but also of optimism. Having entered a new phase in the European Union’s drive for economic recovery, we see the Irish presidency as that of a recovery country driving recovery in Europe by securing stability and ensuring that it leads to jobs and growth.
Responding effectively to the financial and economic crisis remains a central concern for the European Union, and the European economy must be brought back on track by improving the EU’s global competitiveness, promoting economic growth and creating jobs.
To achieve this, we intend to focus on ensuring lasting stability, starting with the necessary renewal of economic governance in Europe. Key areas for progress will be banking union and financial services reform, coupled with improved economic coordination through the European Semester process (an annual cycle of macro-economic, budgetary and structural policy coordination).
The crisis has also revealed how closely linked our economies are; the single market has been a great European success story and we hope to build on this by focusing on support for those sectors in the European economy with the highest growth potential. For instance, we will actively back legislation to promote Europe’s digital economy.
The Irish presidency will also prioritise the issue of youth unemployment. With more than 20% of the EU’s young people experiencing unemployment, this is a clear priority. We will push for a comprehensive EU approach to tackling this problem.
As 2013 is the European Year of Citizens, it is only right that the Irish presidency reflects this by focusing on issues that will make a real and enduring impact on the people of the 27 member states, facilitating a people-centred recovery that is designed to last.
In 2013, the EU Year of Citizens will encourage public debate about what EU citizenship means for the people of the EU.
This is also a perfect time for us to appreciate the vibrancy of European identity with our cultural programme, Culture Connects, which will feature a variety of events and exhibitions involving Irish artists in Europe and European artists in Ireland.
Here in Brussels my embassy will play a big role in delivering on this cultural programme, partnering with our Permanent Representation to the EU and Culture Ireland, our culture promotion agency. Throughout these six months, people will have the chance to experience and learn about Irish culture.
In Belgium, the cultural programme includes, to name a few highlights from more than 20 events, a concert by The Chieftains in April, an exhibition of a range of Irish artists from Francis Bacon to Orla Barry (pictured) at Bozar from next month, the screening of the 1926 silent film Irish Destiny with orchestral score, a Jim Sheridan film retrospective, a theatre performance of Brokentalkers’ The Blue Boy, and talks by award-winning writer Anne Enright who will participate in the Passa Porta festival in March.
Last week the Brussels programme got off to a great start when Irish traditional music supergroup The Gloaming played to more than 600 people at Flagey.
The presidency Twitter account and official Irish presidency website eu2013.ie will be continuously updated throughout the Irish presidency and are a great way to learn more about our priorities and see a full listing of upcoming cultural events.
So a busy and exciting six months are ahead. I hope you can connect with us through the culture programme or in other ways to ensure the next six months are a positive experience for Ireland and for all of Europe.