Members of the Dáil,
Is cúis mhór áthais dom í bheith sa Dáil – inniu, ar Lá na hEorpa. Ón bhliain 2007 ar aghaidh, is teanga oibre oifigiúil de chuid an Aontais Eorpaigh í an Ghaeilge, agus bíonn sí in úsáid ar bhonn rialta i bParlaimint na hEorpa agam féin agus ag mo chomhghleacaithe.
Bhí caidreamh agus gaol dearfach agus cruthaitheach ag Éirinn leis an Aontas Eorpach agus lenár bpáirtithe Eorpacha i gcónaí. Tá sé fíor a rá, áfach, go bhfuil muid ag tabhairt aghaidh faoi láthair ar an triail is mó a bhí ann don ghaol nó den chaidreamh sin ó ghlac muid ár mballraíocht san Chomhphobal Eorpach.
Under the provisions of the agreement between the Irish Government, the European Union and the IMF, it is necessary to adhere to the deficit target contained in the Stability and Growth Pact by 2015.
However, it is ironic that the two Member States, France and Germany, who first breached the rules of the Pact in 2002, are the same countries who are now demanding that Ireland increase its corporation tax rate as a quid pro quo for a reduction in the interest rate.
It must be pointed out that tax rates are a domestic and sovereign matter for all EU Member States. This is enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty.
Irish MEPs have regular access to Commissioner Olli Rehn and we have impressed upon him the necessity to reduce the interest rate.
I fully support the Government’s efforts in this regard so as to ensure our debt is sustainable in the long term.
It is worth noting that the people of Iceland recently rejected by referendum the so-called “Ice-save” deal, which included a rate of repayment of 3.3 percent to Britain and 3% to the Netherlands. Moreover, Greece has secured a lower interest rate from the EU and the IMF.
The peripheral countries of the Eurozone are facing severe problems. I take no sense of pride in the fact that other EU Member States as well as Ireland are in trouble. This is a European wide problem.
Important budgetary negotiations between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council to establish the level of funding for EU policies for the period 2014 to 2020 are well advanced.
These negotiations are critical for Irish farmers, their families, rural communities and the food sector. The importance of the Common Agricultural Policy in supporting farm incomes and job creation in rural Ireland is immense.
The Irish Government and all the Irish MEPs must work closely together to protect and to maintain the some EUR 1.7 billion, which Ireland receives annually under the CAP.
Up to four rounds of negotiations have taken place to date between the European Commission and the South American Trade body known as Mercosur.
Agriculture is Ireland’s largest indigenous manufacturing industry and is a key industry in the context of Ireland’s economic recovery. Any threats to undermine that industry will therefore have a major economic impact.
There are serious concerns about the impact such an agreement would have on the beef sector and in particular on the high quality beef market in the EU. The Irish Government must ensure that the Irish beef sector is fully protected in the context of any trade offer made by the European Commission.
I have always stated that the Irish fisheries sector has paid too great a price for our membership of the European Union.
As a member of the Fisheries Committee in the European Parliament, I will fight tooth and nail to ensure that this situation can be rectified in the course of the next reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. The European Commission is expected on the 13th of July to publish its proposal for the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. The European Parliament and the 27 Government’s will then jointly negotiate the final agreement.
In conclusion, I would like to mention the role the European Union is playing in supporting the Irish peace process.
The European Union is the greatest and most successful peace project in the world and it continues to play a very significant role in supporting the peace process in Ireland, political stability and economic development in the border counties.
The European Union has been the largest donor to the International Fund for Ireland. The Peace III programme targets grassroots programmes that promote community development and social inclusion and the Interreg cross border programme supports the development of cross border economic links in a range of areas including roads, water, waste, energy and tourism.
These important programmes are due for re-negotiation over the coming year and I shall actively lobby for their retention.