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Address by President José Manuel Barroso to UCC, 18 April 2008
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"Why the Treaty of Lisbon is Good for Ireland"

Address by José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission,

to the National University of Ireland, Cork,

18 April 2008

I want to talk to you today about the Treaty of Lisbon and about why young people like yourselves should be interested. I also want to hear what you think about it.

The Treaty of Lisbon is designed to modernize the European Union. It will make the European Union more democratic, more efficient and with a stronger voice in external relations. The Treaty will make a Union that works well to work even better, particularly after it has grown to 27 Member States.

[Global Europe]

The Treaty of Lisbon will help turn the European Union from a regional into a global player. Nowadays we talk about global Europe. Today's European Union has half a billion citizens and a truly continental scale. We have to change how we work so that we can be more efficient in addressing global challenges. With the new Treaty, the Union will have the means to promote its values and defend European interests. During the last five, ten years, the world has changed a lot, with the emergence of new powers, new challenges and new threats. No European state will be able to deal with this new world alone. Together, we will succeed; divided we will fail.   

Now you have heard a lot about globalization. It raises concerns, but also opens doors. And the European Union can do a lot to tackle the concerns, and to open the doors a bit more. This is because Europe can claim to be a model for globalization. Our history of the last fifty years shows that we have the experience

- to develop a fair and open market that increases prosperity and social justice;

- to create political forms of cooperation between states that enable them to pursue their own interests in peaceful co-operation;

- to build institutions and trans-national rules which defend the common good and treat all Member States equally;

- to promote the well-being of our citizens by giving them freedom and opportunities.

If with our allies and partners, we can help to build a global order based on similar achievements, the world will certainly be a better place.

I want to be part of this exciting new stage in the development of the European Union. I would hope you do too. Ireland has an important role to play on the world stage. It has been very successful in peacekeeping and humanitarian actions in many countries round the world. It is one of the European champions in development and aid.

Let me share an experience with you. Last November, I visited East Timor, where there is a strong international effort to build a new state. I saw in this little island in the Indian Ocean, thousands of miles from Europe, an Irish presence helping the people of East Timor to have a better life. This is a great example and Europe needs Ireland to keep giving these examples. Ireland is a good international citizen. And in a global Europe, there will be a central place for good international citizens.

[Energy/climate change]

The Treaty of Lisbon will also offer the tools to tackle climate change. A large majority of Europeans see climate change as a major threat. They are right, and that is why Europe is taking action. Again, on their own, European countries cannot do it all. Together, we have the critical mass to be the global leaders, showing others that you can have clean, smart economic growth which does not damage our planet.  

The fight against climate change offers new opportunities for economic growth and for more and better jobs. If we make the right decisions and the right political choices, we can work simultaneously for competitiveness, innovation, a better prepared and educated working force, and a greater quality of life.

Some of you may be studying in fields like economics, science or even law – all of these disciplines are needed if we are to succeed in meeting the goal of becoming a low carbon economy. You must come up with innovative new ideas that we need. This is an exciting challenge for you, both professionally and personally.

[Prosperity for European and Irish citizens]

By creating the conditions to have a more modern Union, the Treaty of Lisbon will help to maintain European economic competitiveness at the global level. Since the beginning of the 21st Century, the world has changed dramatically. International competition is much tougher. We must see this increased global competition as an opportunity to improve European economies.

We should open ourselves within Europe and to the world. Protectionism is not the answer to global challenges. Of course, we must defend and promote European interests. But the best way to do it is by persuading the others to open their societies and not to close ourselves.

Economic reforms and increased competitiveness have to go hand in hand with social justice. One of the historical acquis of the post-War European order is that we have the highest levels of social justice in the world. We must preserve such an achievement. Solidarity is a key principle of European societies. If we forget this, we will not succeed in our attempts to reform.

We also need to understand that the concerns that many European citizens feel towards globalization are legitimate. We cannot allow a gap to grow between those Europeans who see globalization as an opportunity and benefit from it and other Europeans who fear globalization. Globalization can be an opportunity for the great majority of European citizens. This is why we stress the importance of innovation, education and better skills. The best way to prepare citizens for globalization is to educate them better.

In terms of prosperity, competition, openness and innovation, Ireland is an example for Europe. I remember very well how, in Portugal, we admired the Irish economic miracle of the 1990s. Now, as President of the Commission, when I travel to the new Member States, their leaders, their citizens keep telling me that they want to follow the 'Irish miracle'. Your economic and social progress of the last twenty years shows how Ireland has benefited from European Union membership but also how Ireland can help shaping the European economic agenda.

Ireland will be able to preserve the Irish economic model. I know that, in a crucial area of this model, taxation policies, there is a wide debate in Ireland. Let me make three points: first, the Treaty of Lisbon makes no changes to the rules on tax policy; secondly, with unanimity needed for any new laws, nothing can be imposed against Irish will; thirdly, this is not a question of "Ireland vs the rest"; other Member States share the Irish position (or Member States have different positions). And as I have said, far from going against the grain, your economic policies are rather something that other parts of Europe want to follow.

Agriculture will also be part of the modernization agenda of the Union. We will build a European agriculture for the future, which

  • respects the social and economic well-being of the farmers;
  • guarantees the right of Europeans to have quality food, which involves high standards of quality both for European production and for importing external goods;
  • and maintains a prosperous rural life, with strong rural communities and an efficient and working rural economy, which is a core part of the European way of living.

I have always said that referendum and parliamentary vote are both legitimate processes of ratification. The most important is that this is a decision to be taken by the Irish people: a great example of political self-determination. The decision is in your hands and the choice is clear: if you don't vote, others will decide for you. If you want to decide, you have to vote.  

I know that the Irish have a feel for the good things in life. They appreciate things that "are good for you". Well, I believe that the Treaty of Lisbon is good for you. I think I am right to be confident of the response when you ask yourselves the same question in June.




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