Taoiseach says Irish presidency helped bolster EU credibility

Kenny pays tribute to Minister of State Lucinda Creigton, who accompanied him on trip

Taoiseach Enda Kenny leaves Government Buildings yesterday evening. He addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg today to mark the end of Ireland’s six month EU presidency. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/THE IRISH TIMES.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny leaves Government Buildings yesterday evening. He addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg today to mark the end of Ireland’s six month EU presidency. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/THE IRISH TIMES.

Tue, Jul 2, 2013, 12:30

Ireland’s achievements during its presidency of the Council of the European Union have bolstered the credibility of the EU, and enhanced its role and work in the eyes of the people, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

Speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg today, where he was flanked by Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton, Mr Kenny outlined Ireland’s main achievements during its six-month tenure of the rotating presidency, which ended on Sunday.

He highlighted achievements such as securing a negotiating mandate on EU-US trade talks, progressing banking union plans and the conclusion of negotiations on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy with the European Parliament.

Pointing out that negotiations on the EU’s seven-year budget have “underpinned so much of our presidency’s endeavours and achievements,” the Taoiseach stressed the importance of tomorrow’s vote by MEP’s on the measure following agreement last week in Brussels.

Last week’s agreement “identifies the best way to ensure that the almost €1 trillion for MFF (multiannual financial framework) is released as soon as possible into the real economy,” the Taoiseach said.

While noting that there had been “frustration and disappointment” on both sides during the lengthy negotiations, he said the parliament had championed many of the important measures contained in the final agreement.

“The flexibility you introduced allows us to advance more money for youth unemployment,” Mr Kenny said. “You worked to ensure that aid for the Most Deprived stays at current levels and is not reduced. No one institution has a monopoly of wisdom. And the Parliament has made the MFF a better instrument. “

As in all good negotiations, the outcome struck a balance, the Taoiseach said. “Not everyone in the Council was happy, let me assure you of that.. but indeed not everyone in the Parliament is 100 per cent satisfied either,” he said.

“The signal that we now send to our struggling peoples, our struggling businesses and especially to our young men and women, is that yes - Europe is capable, Europe is competent, it is worthy your trust, it is deserving of our confidence. Because it can and does decide. It can and does deliver.”

Negotiations between the European Council, represented by the Irish presidency, and the European Parliament on the EU’s €960 billion multi-annual budget ended last Thursday with agreement between the two sides following months of discussions. MEP’s will show their support for the measure at a vote in Strasbourg tomorrow, but a final vote will not take place until September.

As well as securing agreement on the MFF, the Irish presidency chaired approximately 2,500 meetings during the presidency.

Mr Kenny thanked Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore for his work during the presidency and paid tribute to Ms Creighton for her “invaluable” work representing the European Council, and in bringing the EU’s seven-year budget to a conclusion, comments that were met with applause from the chamber.

The overall budget for the Presidency was around €60 million plus €10 million on security costs. This represents a 40 per cent drop on the €110 million spent during Ireland’s last presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2004.