Cohesion of EU project weakened, says President
ECONOMIC SELF-INTEREST on the part of the strongest European Union member states is undermining the cohesion of the European project, President Michael D Higgins has warned
He said the idea of creating a union that would lead the world in sustainable development and human rights had been ignored.
Instead, he said the strongest member states were more interested in establishing an economic advantage within the union.
“I believe the neglect of that discourse has placed the prospect of a European Union of peoples, of citizens, ideals and liberating scholarship at risk,” he said. “And I believe that is the price we are being asked to pay by the strongest in defence of their national trade advantage.”
The President was speaking at the launch of a collection of essays, Towards a Flourishing Society, by the independent think tank Tasc, edited by health policy lecturer Dr Fergus O’Ferrall.
Mr Higgins said Irish – and European – society faced an enormous challenge to remould itself by creating a new set of values based on participation, equality and respect. He added it was neither possible nor desirable to replicate the consumption-led, debt-fuelled economic growth of the later Celtic Tiger years.
Instead, he said everyone had a role to play in creating an “emancipatory discourse” based on fresh values that could form the bedrock of a better model of economic strategy.
We should avoid looking to the past to recover old values, given that a truly inclusive Republic never existed, he said. “At best we can point in our history to an envisioned democratic Republic, such as was delivered with the rhetorical force of the prophetic, in a document like the democratic programme of the first Dáil.
“That document was used as a tool for legitimation at local level and abroad, but was deflected in its stated aims by the property ethos that had come to define post-Famine economic adjustment in Ireland.”
Mr Higgins said that despite the damage caused by neo-liberal economic policies – with their emphasis on self-interest and maximising profit – many of these ideas had not yet been discarded.
Instead, he said economic policy needed to be harnessed as a way of building a flourishing society, rather than simply being seen as an unaccountable and speculative force.
Mr Higgins expressed concern, however, at the limited space being made available in the media and elsewhere to discuss ways of establishing a new way forward.