EU ‘not reflecting best interests of citizens’, President says

Michael D Higgins appeals for new ethical framework at conference of European universities in Galway

President Michael D Higgins has called for a new ethical framework for Europe which would  prioritise poverty, inequality and food security. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

President Michael D Higgins has called for a new ethical framework for Europe which would prioritise poverty, inequality and food security. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Fri, May 24, 2013, 15:41

The European Union is not reflecting the best interests of its citizens, nor is it confident of its intellectual tradition, President Michael D Higgins has said.

Addressing an international conference of European universities at NUI Galway (NUIG) today, Mr Higgins has appealed for a new ethical framework which would be the EU’s “defining contribution”.

This framework would prioritise the global challenges of poverty, inequality and food security, and would reflect responsibility for the environment, responsibility for labour and responsibility for the involvement of citizens.

Mr Higgins appealed for replacement of “hubris with humility”, and a focus on the value of discoveries rather than on “celebrity”.

Such a focus would abandon the “vulgarity of instance recognition of what we do”, he told some 160 delegates representing 40 universities across Europe, who are part of the Coimbra group.

Mr Higgins paid tribute to EU Commissioner for research, innovation and science Maire Geoghegan-Quinn who had earlier told the conference that creativity, research and innovation were “exactly what we need for our universities and indeed for society more generally”.

“The European Commission and indeed all of us are fortunate in having a commissioner who is striving to place such issues at the centre of the European Union policy and budgetary negotiations,” Mr Higgins said.

“Her communication to the European Parliament that achieving the target of spending 3 per cent of EU gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development by 2020 could create 317 million jobs by 2025 is both challenging and positive,” he said.

It also recognised the greatest problem in the EU was unemployment affecting 26 million people, and the “potentially delegitimising potential of high youth unemployment”, Mr Higgins said.

Mr Higgins said that Europe’s principle crisis was one of “acknowledging that the union itself is not reflecting significantly the best interests of the people of Europe”.

The Coimbra group of universities was founded in 1985, and includes NUIG and Trinity College, Dublin among its membership.

The President is also due to receive an honorary fellowship from Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) this afternoon