Ministers for European Affairs met in Dublin today to discuss greater democratic accountability in the EU as it takes the next steps on economic and budgetary policy. With representatives of candidate and potential candidate countries also in Dublin, Ministers also discussed the state of play on enlargement.
The Minister for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton TD, hosted a meeting of her EU counterparts in Dublin on 20-21 January. The main focus of the meeting was on ways to strengthen democratic legitimacy and accountability within the European Union as steps are taken towards closer economic and monetary integration. The co-ordinating role of General Affairs Council Ministers was highlighted by all Member States in this context.
As a basis for discussion, Minister Creighton had commissioned a paper by Brigid Laffan, Professor of European Politics at University College Dublin, The Fourth Pillar of a Genuine EMU – Democratic Legitimacy and Accountability. The Minister also invited representatives of the European Parliament, the Oireachtas (the Irish national parliament) and the Northern Ireland Executive to join the meeting.
Minister Creighton: In concrete terms, the Irish Presidency will work to ensure there is full participation of national parliaments in debates on the European Semester, which aims to secure lasting stability through a new system of economic policy coordination between Member States.
Commenting on the outcome of the meeting, Minister Creighton said, “We had a valuable exchange of views on how we make sure that there is proper democratic oversight of decisions that increasingly being taken in Brussels. We looked at the role that the European Parliament and our national parliaments should play. In concrete terms, the Irish Presidency will work to ensure there is full participation of national parliaments in debates on the European Semester, which aims to secure lasting stability through a new system of economic policy coordination between Member States. For example, one proposal which attracted considerable support today was the possibliity of candidates for the position of President of the European Commission being nominated by the political groups in the European Parliament.
Minister Creighton: We were also all agreed that we need to explain better to our citizens what is happening. It is not good enough that only 33% of Europeans feel their voice is heard in the EU, especially given that 2013 is the Year of the Citizens.
Representatives of the five current candidate countries (Iceland, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey) were also at the meeting and the prospects for the future enlargement of the European Union were discussed over a working lunch.
Minister Creighton: Ireland strongly supports the further enlargement of the Union, particularly for the countries of the Western Balkans. For over fifty years, the European Union has provided peace and prosperity in Europe but there is still unfinished work to be done to secure the stability of our continent.
On Sunday, the Minister held separate meetings with representatives of the three potential Western Balkan candidates (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo) to discuss the progress they are making.
Minister Creighton now travels to the European Parliament in Brussels to speak to its Constititutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) tomorrow.