He continued: "One of the fundamental values of the European Union is solidarity – a principle based on mutual help not only during times of prosperity, but, even more importantly, during times of adversity. We in Northern Ireland have been very fortunate in benefitting from the solidarity of our European partnership, which has made a considerable contribution to our economic and social reconstruction – and this support will be vital also in the future."
"Following President Barroso's invitation for Northern Ireland to engage fully with Europe, I'm happy to report that our engagement with Europe has moved on apace during the last twelve months and we are now well placed to fully integrate into the mainstream of European policies and programmes."
Stressing the importance of the EU's growth strategy for the coming decade, Europe 2020, Mr. Maxwell said: "Solidarity is at the heart of this strategy with its three-fold aims of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth which is vital to pulling us out of the current economic and financial crisis. It also embodies our core values of fairness and inclusiveness. Europe 2020 is based on building on our strengths in research and development and innovation and marshalling all the levers of economic management at our disposal to return Europe to a path of growth and prosperity. We also have to bring our education systems up to world levels and instil a spirit of entrepreneurship, especially in the young."
Mr. Maxwell also urged people to take part in a new consultation launched on Europe Day by the European Commission. Between 9 May and 9 September 2012, the European Commission is inviting citizens from the EU member states to help set the policy agenda for the next years and shape the future of Europe in the biggest ever EU public consultation on citizens' rights. Contributions to the consultation will help in the preparations for the next EU Citizenship Report which will be published in 2013 – the European Year of Citizens.