The six-month Irish presidency will have to deal with the continuation of the financial crisis and the need for more jobs and economic growth. As other countries before, the Irish officials promise to offer good solutions for a sustainable recovery of Europe.
Realistically speaking, there are no expectations for a resolution of the debt crisis, but the next months may be important in creating more opportunities for growth. However, Ireland will demonstrate its support for the development of the hi-tech sector, as the most efficient way to support the long-term economic boost.
The Irish presidency will push forward for promoting the harmonization of the professional qualifications on the EU market. One of the suggestions is to create a professional ‘card’ allowing each holder to register his or her qualifications on a dedicated website.
Another priority endeavoured by Ireland concerns the problem of the language of the public procurement procedures. The public tenders have a contribution to the European economic growth of 19%.
Last but not least, the next six months are important in finding a solution to the rights of workers in one country to be sent to work on contracts in another EU country, an issue that is addressed in several rulings of the Court of Justice. Poland and France have opposite opinions in this respect.
Equally important are the discussions regarding the negotiations on the seven-year EU budget, following the failure at the end of last year. Last November, the European leaders were unable to to agree on the size of the cuts to the €1 trillion budget. The EU leaders need to find an extra €30 billion odd to bridge the gap between UK demands for a smaller budget and calls by France and other countries for programmes such as the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) and Cohesion funding to be maintained. Discussions on this issue are expected at the 7-8 February summit. Next on the agenda are the projects for reforming both CAP and the Common Fisheries Policy, but the final decision belongs to the European Parliament.
The subject of the permanent bailout fund will continue during the next six months, without too many expectations for an agreement. Several meetings of the finance ministers will approach this sensitive topic.
The European Commission will continue the dialogue regarding the possibilities for signing free-trade agreements with third countries. After Singapore, Peru, Columbia and South Korea, the discussions regarding similar documents signed with India, US and Japan are included in the priority list of the next months. Especially the US-EU deal may have direct positive effects on the Irish economy, according to economic experts.
In terms of enlargement, there are expected more discussions with the Balkan countries, with Serbia waiting to be given a date for the beginning of the negotiations. The same hopes are expressed in Skopje. There are not too many chances that there will be clear positions concerning the eventual admission of Turkey. The foreign agenda will most likely keep the Syrian problems, due to the concerns regarding human rights, as well as the Iranian nuclear file and the evolutions in the Middle East.
The beginning of the EU Irish presidency was inaugurated with a special flag-raising ceremony that took place at Dublin Castle, in the presence of local officials, including the Minister of State for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton. During the six months of the presidency, around 1,600 meetings are scheduled, out of which 180 will take place in Ireland.
It is the country’s seventh presidential term, 40 years after Ireland became a full member of the EU, in 1973.
The last time when Ireland held the office of the European Union, in 2004, the country was going through a favourable time, as the so-called Celtic Tiger was highly appreciated for the good economic performances. One of the most noteworthy performances of the latest Irish presidency was the successful negotiation of the EU Constitution, at the end of difficult negotiations.