Europe is vi­tal to Ire­land’s fu­ture

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - 60 YEARS OF EUROPEAN UNITY - Phil Ho­gan Euro­pean Com­mis­sioner for Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment

Re­main­ing an ac­tive mem­ber at the very heart of the Euro­pean Union re­mains Ire­land’s best chance for con­tin­ued na­tional suc­cess in the 21st Cen­tury.

Ire­land, by virtue of its his­tory, its ge­og­ra­phy, and its cul­tural out­reach has al­ways suc­ceeded in mag­ni­fy­ing its vis­i­bil­ity and in­flu­ence around the world. But as a small, mod­ern na­tion, the re­al­ity is that we re­quire the part­ner­ship and good­will of larger part­ners to achieve this suc­cess.

Among our his­tor­i­cal part­ner­ships, the EU stands head and shoul­ders above the rest. Since 1973, EEC and now EU mem­ber­ship has helped to raise the so­cial and eco­nomic stan­dards of our coun­try to un­prece­dented heights.

Ir­ish busi­nesses have un­hin­dered ac­cess to a mar­ket of more than 500 mil­lion peo­ple.

Our cit­i­zens have the right to move, work and re­side freely within the ter­ri­tory of other mem­ber states.

An es­ti­mated 700,000 jobs have been cre­ated in Ire­land dur­ing the years of mem­ber­ship; trade has in­creased 90-fold; and For­eign Direct In­vest­ment has in­creased dra­mat­i­cally from just €16 mil­lion in 1972 to more than €30 bil­lion to­day.

Be­tween 1973 and 2014, Ire­land re­ceived over €72.5 bil­lion from the EU, in­clud­ing €54 bil­lion for farm­ers and ru­ral ar­eas from the Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy.

Ir­ish is an of­fi­cial work­ing lan­guage in the EU, which helps to pro- tect the coun­try’s teanga dúchasach for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

And like so many other Euro­pean na­tions, the EU gave us a sup­port­ing plat­form to heal some of our own his­tor­i­cal scars. Euro­pean Union mem­ber­ship — and sig­nif­i­cant amounts of Euro­pean fund­ing — bol­stered the North­ern Ire­land peace process.

Now, as we cel­e­brate Europe Day and the 60th An­niver­sary of the Treaty of Rome, we must look to the fu­ture and de­cide what comes next. The de­ci­sion by our neigh­bours in the UK to leave the EU, cou­pled with the ris­ing tide of na­tion­al­ism in many EU coun­tries, means that we and our Euro­pean part­ners stand at a cross­roads.

In one di­rec­tion, we pledge to re­new our Euro­pean vows and find bet­ter ways to face head-on some of the most press­ing chal­lenges of our time: cli­mate change, mi­gra­tion, and se­cu­rity, to name but a few. In the other di­rec­tion, we with­draw into our­selves and con­trib­ute to a looser, weaker EU.

The choice is stark, and we can­not af­ford to be com­pla­cent in our at­ti­tude to­wards Euro­pean co­op­er­a­tion. Ir­ish cit­i­zens must re­sist the strength­en­ing anti-EU voices in our coun­try who feel em­bold­ened by Brexit. To those who would move us away from our Euro­pean part­ners, I would of­fer these cau­tion­ary words: be care­ful what you wish for.

In­stead, we should con­tinue to play an ac­tive role by in­flu­enc­ing the up­com­ing EU-UK ne­go­ti­a­tions to limit the dam­age from Brexit.

It is in Ire­land’s in­ter­est — but also very firmly in Europe’s in­ter­est — to en­sure that the EU and UK main­tain a sen­si­ble, mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial re­la­tion­ship post-Brexit.

We must not set our­selves apart from the other 26; in­stead we should place our unique strate­gic in­sight at the heart of the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

And aside from Brexit, we should make our voice heard at Euro­pean level dur­ing this time of cathar­sis and flux. The Euro­pean Union postBrexit will not be the same, and as a ma­ture, con­fi­dent mem­ber of the club, Ire­land can play a part in shap­ing a Union which de­liv­ers even more ben­e­fits for our cit­i­zens.

The EU is ar­guably the great­est ve­hi­cle for max­imis­ing small coun­try in­flu­ence in the his­tory of the world. Few coun­tries have ben­e­fited as much from EU mem­ber­ship as Ire­land, and we owe it to our­selves and to our part­ners to do our part now that the go­ing is get­ting tough. The EU is not a re­mote of­fice in Brus­sels — it is you and ev­ery­thing around you!

There will be new op­por­tu­ni­ties for Ire­land – in agri­cul­ture, in busi­ness, in bank­ing, in trade, and as the main English-lan­guage en­try hub into the sin­gle mar­ket. On Europe Day, let us vow to work to­gether to do the best we can for a re­newed and re­vi­talised Euro­pean Union. In so do­ing, the EU will con­tinue to do the best it can for us.

Photo: Eti­enne An­sotte Source: EC, Au­dio­vi­sual Ser­vice

Euro­pean flags flut­ter­ing in front of the Ber­lay­mont build­ing, head­quar­ters of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion.

Since join­ing the EEC in 1973, Ire­land has cre­ated 700,000 jobs and seen its trade in­crease 90-fold.

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