I am very pleased to be here in St Andrews's College today to launch this special on-line product "Europack". The Europack will assist teachers in teaching European Studies to senior students and provides many helpful guides on the history of Europe and the European Union, as well as on Europe's role in our lives today.
For the past 3 years I have been busy trying to find better ways to communicate with people about Europe and tell them the role that Europe play in our lives. People are very surprised when they realise just what an important role the EU does play. From first thing in the morning, to last thing at night, we all interact with the European Union in ways that we don't even realise.
The money in your pocket for example is an EU initiative.
The food that is on our table every day is affected in so many ways by the EU ranging from the quality of the food concerned, the packaging and labelling that they food comes in, the environment in which food was grown, the payment received by the farmers, the transport of the food from one country to another.
The EU has set standards in all of these areas to ensure that you have access to food that is safe and produced in the best possible conditions. And of course food which is varied – food produced in Greece, France and all around Europe.
Many of you will be off on holiday soon for Easter. The EU has ensured that you can now travel without visas and endless checks from one country to another. If you want to take your cat or dog, there's an EU passport that now allows you to do this and avoids the need to put your pets in quarantine for six months. Take your EU health card and if you're injured while skiing this year, you can get free emergency treatment in whatever EU country you visit and even in non-EU countries such as Switzerland.
Again these are all EU initiatives that play a very real and useful part in your lives.
And soon you will leave this school and go onto University. What has the EU done for university students? Well, first of all, for many of you, the degree that you obtain in University will be recognised in all other EU countries. As part of your study, you can if you wish also study for a full year in a university of another country thanks to the EU's Erasmus programme.
I have just highlighted these few examples, very few examples in fact, to show how the EU plays such a major part in all of our lives in the future.
But you are the real future of Europe. It is you, when you have chosen your future careers and lives, who will decide on what kind of EU you will live in.
If you ask your grand-parents many will remember when Europe was at war; when disputes between countries were often settled with destruction and minor or major wars.
Perhaps the greatest success of the European Union is that this is no longer the case.
Every Wednesday morning now, at the meeting of the College I sit around a table to make decisions with colleagues from 26 other European countries. Many of these countries were at war with each other just a generation ago. For half a century after that war, they faced each other as hostile neighbours across the iron curtain of the cold war. Now war between us is unthinkable, and this is largely thanks to the European Union. Some call it the best method for conflict resolution that has yet been invented.
Europe has shown that it is better to co-operate with each other rather than to fight; and we are spreading this message across the World – Europe provides more development aid than any other country or region; we work actively to help develop the economies of poorer countries; Europe has a trade policy that allows the poor to sell to us without additional charges as a way of helping them develop their countries; we work together with countries, both inside and outside of the EU and try to resolve our differences by negotiations. This is the European Way.
As I outlined earlier, you have benefited in so many different ways from the European Way. But it is very important that you participate also in this process. Europe can only ever be as great as its people and that is why the future of Europe and the European Union depends on you.
So it is a great pleasure to launch this product here today – a product that I hope will help you and your fellow students across Ireland to better understand the European Union.