Support of European partners essential to our recovery
Opinion: Momentum must be maintained on main agenda of bringing back jobs
Later this week, Dublin will be visited by 16 European heads of state, 2,000 delegates and over 500 members of the international media, when Fine Gael hosts the congress of the European People’s Party (EPP). It is set to be one of the largest political events held in the country and I am very proud the EPP has chosen our capital city for this major conference.
The EPP is the largest political family in Europe with over 70 member parties from 40 countries, including Fine Gael. EPP members lead governments in 12 member states, including Germany, Spain, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Portugal and Greece.
As a grouping of Christian Democratic, centre and centre-right parties, it is the largest political grouping in the European Parliament. Thirteen European commissioners, including the commission president and the European Council president, are all part of the EPP family.
The agenda of the EPP’s Dublin congress will include selecting the party’s candidate for president of the European Commission, who will then lead the party’s EU-wide campaign for the European elections; and finalising the EPP’s manifesto for those elections. It will also deal, through plenary sessions, with current issues like the escalating crisis in Ukraine. Several of the leading opposition figures in Ukraine, including Yulia Tymoshenko, are part of the EPP family and will take part in this high-level debate.
The EPP has chosen Ireland as the location for its congress for a number of reasons. As Europe continues to meet the challenges created by the financial crisis, Ireland’s story is of special significance.
Ireland’s clean exit of our international bailout last year without a precautionary credit line was a symbol of hope that we can now move to a period of recovery. For other European governments it was a sign of confidence that we can achieve progress that might have appeared impossible when we work together and support each other.
For Ireland, it was a moment of pride that our economic destiny was again in our own hands and that we stood again as full members of the euro zone, with the same rules, obligations, supports and opportunities as all other member states.
But the bailout exit was not an end in itself. While we are moving in the right direction, too many of our people have yet to feel the recovery in their own lives and many are still enduring great suffering.
The Government has a plan to move to the next phase of jobs and recovery in 2014, which we are calling the “year for jobs”. We have seen steady progress, with 61,000 new jobs created in 2013, but we will work relentlessly to increase this so that we can get our people back to work and so the sacrifices they have made are not wasted. Our position within Europe is vital to maintaining stability and to continuing to attract jobs and investment to these shores.
Across Europe, EPP-led governments have been tasked with fixing the problems in countries worst affected by the economic crisis and working to bring recovery to their people. Like the Irish Government, EPP-led governments in Spain, Portugal and Greece are dealing with the legacies of decisions made by previous governments that have wrought dire consequences on their economies.
The strength in unity and support of European partners is essential to make recovery a reality. It is important now for European citizens to see leaders following through with implementation of decisions made to achieve economic security, including the full implementation of banking union. Momentum must be maintained on the agenda of driving jobs and growth so we can see member states put on the road to durable economic recovery.
For Ireland, we had a clear plan to stabilise our economy and exit the bailout, and now we have a clear plan to use our economic freedom to create a strong and sustainable economy for the future.
Our focus now is on creating jobs in the domestic economy, supporting Irish entrepreneurs and sectors like tourism, retail and construction. We will continue to implement banking reform so that our banks can properly make a contribution to economic recovery, both through ensuring credit is available to fund investment and job creation, and through meeting the targets the Government has set on dealing with unsustainable mortgage debt.
Central in all of this is continuing to manage our public finances responsibly so that the progress that has been made through the sacrifices of the Irish people is not wasted – we are never going back to the boom-and-bust model that so badly served the people and the country.
The last three years have been a difficult time for Ireland and for Europe, and a traumatic period for our people, but we now have reason to look to the future with more confidence and hope. I believe that working together we can regain the jobs lost in the financial crisis in order to ensure there are opportunities for our young people to live and work in their own country. We can rebuild an economy that is based on enterprise, not speculation, so that we create a sound foundation for a society where our people can work, raise a family and grow old with dignity.
The EPP congress in the coming days is a unique opportunity to showcase Ireland’s journey to the current and future political leaders of Europe and I look forward to welcoming our visitors.
Enda Kenny is Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader