EU must embrace social reform to restore confidence, President says

Michael D Higgins says EU must defend against ‘negativity of powerful’

 Sabina Higgins congratulates President Michael D Higgins after his conferral with an honorary doctorate at Vytautas Magnus University, Vilnius, Lithuania, by chairman of the university senate, Professor Zigmas Lydeka. Photograph: Maxwell’s

Sabina Higgins congratulates President Michael D Higgins after his conferral with an honorary doctorate at Vytautas Magnus University, Vilnius, Lithuania, by chairman of the university senate, Professor Zigmas Lydeka. Photograph: Maxwell’s

 

Europe must embrace social and economic reforms to restore confidence among citizens, President Michael D Higgins has said.

Speaking to business leaders on his second day of a state visit to Lithuania, the president urged the European Union to defend multilateral order against the “negativity of the most powerful”, saying attacks to the existing system was the biggest challenge to the world.

“Globally the biggest challenge is in terms of those who are seeking to undermine the multilateral system. Every day we meet a new challenge,” Higgins told the audience in Vilnius, without directly mentioning US President Donald Trump or other politicians by name.

“The conversation now is very interesting. It will not be able to be confined to the words of the most powerful, or the negativity of the most powerful,” he added.

“If we are to restore confidence in Europe and the European Union and offer what I call now a needs-based eco-social form of political economy,” Higgins said.

He said smaller EU states like Ireland or Lithuania could play a key role in restoring the trust among ordinary people.

“It means that you Lithuania and we in Ireland, we can bring satisfaction of the basic needs of society, highest levels of participation, the most intelligent forms of new innovation, the use of science and technology in ethical way,” he said.

“That is most likely to come from countries like Ireland and Lithuania, and it gives a huge boost when people believe in that,” Higgins said.

As part of his visite, the President was also conferred with an honorary doctorate at Vytautas Magnus University.

His visit to Lithuania and fellow Baltic state Latvia came as Ireland is seeking to expand ties with Nordic and Baltic states, like-minded countries when it comes to future EU relations with Britain and free trade.

In Vilnius, he also met the Lithuanian president, Dalia Grybauskaite and parliament speaker Viktoras Pranckietis.