Pro-EU cit­i­zens must voice sup­port

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - 60 YEARS OF EUROPEAN UNITY - Gerry Kiely Head of Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s Rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Ire­land In­ter­viewer: John Daly

“Europe can­not af­ford a pe­riod of paral­y­sis as it adapts to the new re­al­i­ties cre­ated in 2016,” says Gerry Kiely, head of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s Rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Ire­land.

“That is why, through­out the tu­mult of the past year, the Com­mis­sion has re­mained a source of re­silience, sta­bil­ity and for­ward mo­men­tum for Europe.”

Ire­land’s po­si­tion needs care­ful nur­tur­ing — given a Bri­tish elec­tion on the near hori­zon, and the in­evitabil­ity of more Euro-scep­ti­cism to fol­low dur­ing the twoyear ne­go­ti­a­tions for Bri­tain’s even­tual exit.

“No­body be­lieves the EU is per­fect, not even its most ar­dent sup­port­ers, but show me an al­ter­na­tive?

“The EU has brought peace, pros­per­ity and democ­racy to Euro­pean coun­tries, and we must con­tinue to work with what we have and im­prove on it.

“If Ire­land doesn’t want to be a mem­ber of the EU, what is it go­ing to be a mem­ber of? Is there an al­ter­na­tive — there isn’t one,” he says.

Within the Com­mis­sion, Mr Kiely started his ca­reer as an of­fi­cial deal­ing with the in­ter­na­tional af­fairs of Agri­cul­ture. In 1991, he be­came spokesper­son for the Agri­cul­ture Com­mis­sion­ers, Ray MacSharry, René Ste­ichen and Franz Fis­chler — stay­ing in this post un­til 1999.

He then went on, from 2000 to 2003, to serve as head of the Agri­cul­ture, Food Safety, Con­sumer Af­fairs and Fish­eries Sec­tion of the EU Del­e­ga­tion in Wash­ing­ton, DC.

More re­cently, Mr Kiely oc­cu­pied a series of man­age­rial posts in the Di­rec­torate Gen­eral for Agri­cul­ture, in­clud­ing over the last six years as head of the Unit for Pre-Ac­ces­sion As­sis­tance.

The Rep­re­sen­ta­tion is the lo­cal of­fice of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion in Ire­land. The roles of the of­fice in­clude ex­plain­ing how Euro­pean Union poli­cies will af­fect Ire­land, and be­ing a source of EU- re­lated in­for­ma­tion for gov­ern­ment and other author­i­ties.

Brexit re­sult: 30 years of Euro-scep­ti­cism

“Brexit is hap­pen­ing not be­cause of the cam­paign dur­ing the referendum, but be­cause of 30 years of un­chal­lenged Euro-scep­ti­cism,” said Gerry Kiely.

“This scep­ti­cism is grow­ing in Ire­land, and will grow even more as Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions get more dif­fi­cult — and pro-Euro­peans have to stand up and de­fend Europe. It is not for the in­sti­tu­tions in Brus­sels to de­fend Europe, but for those who are proEuro­peans,” he adds.

“Pro- Euro­peans in Bri­tain sat on their hands for 30 years and now they see the price,” said Gerry.

To the voices say­ing that be­cause Ire­land trades so much with the UK and the US, it should leave the EU, Mr Kiely is suc­cinct: “The only rea­son Ire­land has so much trade with the UK and the US is be­cause we are a mem­ber of the EU. If Ire­land were to leave the EU, where does it go? No­body is in­ter­ested in ne­go­ti­at­ing a Free Trade Agree­ment with a coun­try of 4.5 mil­lion peo­ple, we would have no lever­age. But within the EU we have that lever­age as part of the most at­trac­tive con­sumer block in the world.”

Pro-Euro­peans in Ire­land have to stand up and de­fend the EU, rather than leave it to some­one else, he says.

Hard Brexit chal­lenges

“A hard Brexit will in­evitably cause prob­lems for Ire­land, and while this is not any­one’s ob­jec­tive, there will be pos­tur­ing as the ne­go­ti­a­tions go on — es­pe­cially from the tabloid me­dia.

“Euroscep­ti­cism will be prom­i­nent over the com­ing months, and it is up to the pro- EU voices in Ire­land to make them­selves heard,” he says.

At a time of ma­jor volatil­ity in Europe and the world, Mr Kiely un­der­lines the im­por­tance of work­ing to­gether as closely, and as clearly, as pos­si­ble.

He said: “The lessons of the crises of past years are clear: short­com­ings must be ad­dressed sooner rather than later.

“A test will al­ways come, in due course, and you can­not ad­dress a sys­temic prob­lem with a last-minute quick fix. Look­ing ahead to Rome, and our 60th an­niver­sary, we have work to achieve and a vi­sion to set out.”

“Ire­land has the EU’s youngest pop­u­la­tion. In 2015, 22.1% of peo­ple here were aged 14 or un­der; the EU av­er­age was 15.6% (Ger­many, low­est at 13.2%). Ire­land also had the low­est share (13.0 %) of peo­ple aged 65+. Ire­land’s 36.4 years me­dian age was the low­est ver­sus the EU me­dian of 42.4.

EU FACT “Ire­land has so much trade with UK and US be­cause we are in the EU. If Ire­land left the EU, we’d have no lever­age

Gerry Kiely, head of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Ire­land, who urges pro-Euro­peans to speak out against Euro-scep­ti­cism.

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