The Irish Presidency can be summed up in a simple phrase “Stability, jobs and growth”. When considering our priorities, each agenda item was viewed through this lens. The Irish Presidency will be that of a recovery country driving recovery in Europe.
The banking crisis of 2008 sparked one of the most challenging periods the EU has ever had to face. Member State governments and all the European Institutions have worked together to seek common solutions to the challenges posed. Dealing with the crisis has taken time. However, we must now look beyond the crisis.
In practical legislative terms the Irish Presidency hopes to advance, and in many cases conclude, negotiations on some of the most important dossiers and initiatives currently before EU decision makers. Some of these key priorities are highlighted below.
- Banking Union: The imperative to break the link between banks and sovereigns was unanimously agreed by European leaders. The Presidency will push for agreement on the Banking Union proposals including the first important step of adopting the Single Supervisory Mechanism, which will open up the way for the ESM to directly re-capitalize banks, starting in 2014. Further steps on deposit guarantees and resolution mechanisms will follow.
- European Semester: Effective management of the EU’s new system of budgetary and economic coordination, the “European Semester”, will be an important focus of the Irish Presidency. This will ensure better coordination and management of our economies.
- “Two-Pack”: The “Two-Pack” aims to further enhance the co-ordination and surveillance for the budgetary processes for the euro area. Ireland will work to secure agreement on the negotiations now at their last stage in the EP.
- Financial Services: The Presidency will manage the busy financial services agenda. In particular there will be a focus on reaching agreement on the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive and Regulation (MiFID/MiFIR) which seeks to harmonise access to and activity of investment firms. Ireland will also make progress on other dossiers in the consumer area, including the Mortgage Credit Directive.
- MFF: The Presidency will support President Van Rompuy in reaching agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). Once Council agreement is secured on the overall MFF, the Presidency will seek to secure the consent of the European Parliament. In parallel Ireland will lead negotiations on almost 70 legislative measures which will deploy the MFF (eg Horizon 2020, CAP, and Cohesion).
Ensuring the conditions for job creation and sustainable growth
- Youth Unemployment: The Presidency will work to advance proposals to help turn the tide on youth joblessness. The Youth Employment Package includes a “Youth Guarantee” aimed at setting principles to help ensure that young people who are not working or studying, receive an offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship. The Presidency aims to make significant progress on the Youth Guarantee. The issue of youth unemployment will be the main focus at the Informal Ministerial meeting of Employment and Social Affairs Ministers in Dublin in February 2013.
- Labour Mobility: The Presidency will work to remove obstacles in the way of worker mobility. This includes reaching a First Reading Agreement on the rules for the Posting of Workers. Ireland will also work to reach a General Approach in June on the Supplementary Pensions Rights Directive. In addition the Presidency will work to progress legislation to strengthen the supports to mobile workers.
- Professional Qualifications: The Presidency will work to achieve agreement on the Proposal on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications in order to facilitate greater labour mobility for skilled workers.
- Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs): SMEs are the key driver of jobs and growth in Europe. The Presidency will host an informal meeting of Competitiveness Ministers in May on the theme of “SMEs as a driver of European Growth”. The Presidency is seeking to secure agreement on the Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME) which aims to provide targeted support for the sector. In addition the Presidency will promote the Smart Regulation agenda as well as the Company Law (Accounting) Directive which will reduce the administrative burden on microenterprises and SMEs.
- Single Market: The Single Market has been one of the EU’s greatest success stories. 500 million consumers need a fully functioning and open single market. Ireland will work to further unlock that great potential through completing the dossiers that remain open under the Single Market Act I (professional qualifications, labour mobility, accounting, auditing measures, intellectual property measures including copy-right, trade market regulations, public procurement directives, product safety and market surveillance). We will prioritise progress on actions in the Single Market Act II as they are published by the Commission.
- Digital Single Market: Only by embracing the digital revolution can the EU hope to compete globally in the 21st century. Growth in the digital economy will promote cross-border commerce and improve competitiveness, delivering long-term advantages for business and consumers alike. The focus of the Presidency will be on measures that support the digital economy. These measures range from legislation on intellectual property rights, cyber security, e-signatures Identification to high-speed broadband rollout and web accessibility.
- Data Protection: As part of its focus on the Digital Agenda, the Presidency will work to reach agreement in the Council on key aspects of the Data Protection package. Progress made by the Presidency in this area will strengthen confidence in the digital economy and support the growth of the Digital Single Market.
- Horizon 2020: In the context of overall agreement on the MFF, the Presidency is aiming for agreement on Horizon 2020, the EU framework programme for research and innovation.
- Trade: Europe’s recovery cannot happen in isolation. Ireland will prioritise trade agreements with key partners and work towards opening new markets and creating new opportunities for enterprise, leading to more jobs and growth. The Presidency will place a special focus on the EU-US trade relationship, with the aim of working towards a formal Council mandate for the start of negotiations on a new comprehensive EU-US Free Trade and Investment Agreement
- Public Procurement: Public authorities across the EU spend approximately €2 trillion per annum on the procurement of goods, services and works. Revised public procurement proposals aim to increase the efficiency of public spending to ensure the best procurement outcomes in terms of value for money, by making the existing rules more simple, flexible and user-friendly. The Presidency will work towards securing agreement with the European Parliament on the proposals.
- Intellectual Property (IP): IP is the cornerstone of any competitive modern economy, especially in today’s global market. The Irish Presidency will seek maximum progress on copyright, trademarks and patents.
- Connecting Europe Facility (CEF): Sustainable and interconnected transport, energy and digital networks are priorities for Europe’s social and economic development. The CEF will determine how the Union’s resources will be invested across transport, energy and telecommunications/digital infrastructures. The Presidency will prioritise the CEF and also a number of the individual proposals which will make connecting Europe a reality.
- Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): The proposed reform of the CAP will be of central importance in shaping the future development of the agriculture and food sector in Europe. CAP reform can also make an important contribution to delivering smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in Europe. The agriculture sector is of critical importance to the EU and the Presidency will place a very strong emphasis on securing agreement on CAP reform.
- Common Fisheries Policy (CFP): Ireland attaches great importance to a sustainable fisheries policy for Europe. A reformed CFP can contribute greatly to sustainability through better management of fish stocks, ensuring that the EU’s waters are protected for future generations. The Presidency will work to reach agreement with the European Parliament on the CFP reform package.
- Integrated Maritime Policy: As an island nation, Ireland attaches strong importance to maritime issues and the potential for growth in a diverse range of areas including sustainable fisheries, marine transport, renewable energy, biotechnology, mineral seabed exploration, tourism and regional development. The Irish Presidency will build on the development of an EU integrated Maritime Policy (IMP). The Presidency will work to advance the proposal on Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) which aims to balance the interests of different sectors to ensure efficient and sustainable use of Member States’ precious marine resources. It will work to advance the implementation of the “Blue Growth” initiative. Ireland also looks forward to making progress on the endorsement of an action plan for the Atlantic Strategy to further consolidate and develop work in this area.
- 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP): The proposed 7th EAP sets out the priority objectives for EU environment policy for the next ten years, grounded in an ambitious vision for an inclusive, green and competitive European economy that safeguards the environment. The Presidency considers the 7th EAP to be of critical importance for Europe’s future, and will work to finalise agreement with the European Parliament.