Government pledges to keep cost of EU presidency down

Mon, Dec 3, 2012, 00:00

The Government is promising to keep costs down during next year’s EU presidency with no lavish ceremonies planned and most meetings centred in Dublin.

The six-month rotating presidency starting in January is expected to cost €60 million but the Government has said the last presidency in 2004 cost about a third more than that.

“There won’t be pomp and ceremony and I’m not sure such a presidency would send the right signal given the difficulties in Ireland at the moment. It will be a low-key presidency delivering on concrete issues rather than symbols,” said Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton.

Cost has become an issue for recent presidencies with successive countries attempting to show they can keep budgets down. Poland which held the presidency between June and December last year spent about €92 million, according to a Polish official in Brussels. The Danish presidency which followed was estimated to have cost about €70 million while the current Cypriot presidency is costing €61.3 million, according to a spokesman.

The €60 million estimated cost for the Irish presidency does not include security. The Government is hoping to attract some corporate sponsorship for some events.

A number of Government departments will bring in certain expertise for the six-month period, such as press and consultancy work.

Public meetings

A tender has been put for the organisation of public meetings around the country to mark the European year of the citizen.

The presidency, which involves chairing meetings of ministers from the 27 member states, will see at least 15,000 delegates attending about 180 events. Most events will take place in Dublin Castle.

An extra 70 staff have been drafted in to Ireland’s EU Embassy in Brussels with most Government departments taking on about 10 extra people to deal with the workload. Many are on short-term contracts of one year.

Eleven meetings involving ministers from the 27 member states will take place in Ireland including finance ministers in March and agriculture ministers in May, which will see discussions take place on reform of the Common Agriculture Policy. An EU-US trade ministers meeting will take place in April with discussions to include a free trade agreement.

Last presidency

The EU presidency has changed since Ireland last held it in 2004. Then US president George Bush visited Ireland as part of the EU-US summit while the leaders of all member states visited Dublin to mark the enlargement of the EU to include nine new member states.

No such large events will take place this time with the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, now chairing the meetings of EU leaders.

If the EU budget is agreed early next year, the Irish presidency will be heavily dominated with getting legislation passed on this, allowing for funding in agriculture for the new member states and for the innovation and growth agenda.

Seven up Ireland takes on role

The 2013 Irish presidency of the EU will be the seventh time Ireland has taken on the role. Ireland also held the presidency in January-June 1975, July-December 1979, July-December 1984, January-June 1990, July-December 1996 and January-June 2004. The 2004 presidency is estimated to have cost about €100 million. The two biggest events of the 2004 presidency included the ceremony in Dublin to mark the enlargement of the EU to include nine new member states on May 1st which was attended by the 25 EU leaders and the EU-US summit in Dromoland Castle in June when US president George Bush met EU leaders.