Both Ireland and the wider European project are at perilous stages in their histories, the new Minister for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton told the July lunch of the AEJ (July 8). Minister Creighton was the first Minister from the new Irish Government to address the Association.
“We all, journalists and politicians alike, have a responsibility to reject those serotypes and clichés, to be straight with people present the situation as it is rather than tart it up to in the hope of winning a few extra votes or selling a few extra newspapers,” she said. “For me, as a practitioner of politics this is very important. They say a politician thinks of the next election but a statesman thinks of the next generation. We need more of the latter in Ireland and in Europe.”
The European Union, as a political entity, is under serious pressure, she said. The traditional leadership of the bigger member states seemed to be weighed down with narrow domestic concerns, which was overriding their concerns for the Union as a whole. Small member states were equally guilty. European leaders were too often pre-occupied with the crumbs they could take from the Council table and flout in their own capitals, resulting in the dearth of forward vision and long term planning that was dogging the Union at present. Inward-looking nationalism should be, and must remain, a relic of the past.
“The them and us mentality has to end,” she said. “The only way the Union can progress and prosper is by political leaders realising its full potential and taking risks – electoral risks – to achieve it. “
Minister Creighton said Ireland needed to do the following:
- deepen the Single Market to grow economies and protect jobs;
- prioritise enacting the Europe 2020 strategy;
- strengthen the free movement of people and rest any moves to close borders;
- underpin the proper functioning of the Eurozone through closer fiscal co-operation
- and re-commit – yes recommit – to enlargement.
“Ireland has benefited greatly from membership of the European Union and the Union has, in turn benefited from our membership. The synergy created by 27 nations working together far outweighs anything any one of us to ever dream of achieving on our own. For Ireland and Europe to emerge from the current challenges, it is clear that deeper co-operation and co-ordination between the European partners, within the European Union and the Eurozone, is in everyone’s best interests,” she concluded.