Presidency to focus on stability, jobs and growth
This morning, in a presentation to around 150 international media in Brussels, Ireland's 2013 EU Presidency priorities were announced by the Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister), Eamon Gilmore T.D. and the Minister of State for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton T.D. They also launched the Presidency's dedicated website www.eu2013.ie.
The assembled media were told that the year 2013 should usher in a new phase in the European Union’s drive for recovery. The Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU will be about securing stability and ensuring that it leads to jobs and growth.
Drawing from its own experience in responding to the recent economic crisis, the Presidency will be that of a recovery country driving recovery in Europe.
The Tanaiste outlined the Presidency's policy priorities in terms of their contribution to stability, jobs and growth. He spoke of "people-centred recovery, designed to last" through stabilising Europe's banking system (Banking Union) and through improved economic co-ordination. The Irish Presidency would also place a spotlight on youth unemployment, which is at unacceptable levels of over 25% in 13 EU Member States.
"people-centred recovery, designed to last"
Areas with the highest potential to create jobs would be the subject of a comprehensive legislative programme, notably (a) Europe's digital sector and (b) small and medium enterprises (SMEs), who employ 87 million people in the EU already.Trade would also be a Presidency priority given that 30 million EU jobs depend on exports. The Presidency would intensify trade policy talks with strategic partners such as the United States and Japan with agreements expected to be concluded with Canada and Singapore.
The Tanaiste said:
"Trade agreements are top of our agenda. There is potential there for up to 2% growth in GDP across the EU. With the benefit of Ireland’s close links with the US, we will work to progress the idea of a comprehensive EU-US Free Trade Agreement – among others. I discussed this recently with Secretary of State Clinton and I know it is a priority for them as well".
Minister Creighton, noting that 2013 marked both Ireland's 40th year as a member state and the European Year of Citizens, spoke of an incoming Presidency which had invested heavily in relationships with the European Commission, the European Parliament and other stakeholders. "We will do business efficiently and as an honest broker", she said, setting out a range of policy priorities including the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).
The Minister, also highlighted the growth and jobs potential of the digital sector:
"There is so much potential here left to be tapped and if we build confidence in this sector the benefits could be enormous.
To give a couple of figures, 35% of all internet users avoid shopping online because of safety concerns. Progress on this front alone would make a big difference, especially for SMEs which we believe will drive Europe's recovery".
The Tanaiste and Minister of State also launched the Presidency website www.eu2013.ie, which includes an accreditation system for media intending to attend Presidency events in Ireland.
Read a short summary of the Presidency programme including the full range of policy priorities across all formations of the Council of the EU.