European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was today awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the National University of Ireland. In his acceptance speech, President Juncker thanked the National University of Ireland for this important distinction: "This is a great honour for many reasons. Firstly because of where we are. The Royal College of Surgeons on St Stephens Green is a landmark in Irish history. The very spot we are standing in today hosted one of the most emblematic and dramatic chapters of the Easter Uprising. Being here today in a free and peaceful country, I am inspired by the journey Ireland has taken since then.
"And I am equally honoured to join the list of Honorary Fellows from this historic University. Looking through the names, I see giants of Irish and European politics. Some of them are close friends such as the Taoisigh I have worked with during my career: John Bruton, Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny."
See below for the full text of President Juncker's speech.
In an address this morning to the Joint Houses of the Oireachtas, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "Two years ago this week, the British people made a sovereign decision to leave our Union. I wish they had made a different one. But it is their decision and I respect it fully. However, other Member States, and Ireland in particular, should not pay the price for that choice. This is why when it comes to Brexit, I have always said that it is a case of "Ireland first". We have made a lot of progress in the negotiations, notably on issues linked to the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom. But we are not yet there. The hardest parts are still to do. And there is not much time left to find a concrete agreement."
See below for the full text of President Juncker's speech.
The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, is visiting Dublin on Thursday 21 and Friday 22 June 2018.
At the invitation of the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, President Juncker is visiting Dublin ahead of the European Council on 28-29 June to discuss Brexit and other issues currently on the European agenda.
Irish people are the most likely to have a positive image of the EU at 64% according to the Spring 2018 Eurobarometer published today. This figure is up 5 percentage points since the last Eurobarometer survey in the autumn. The share of Irish people (8%) having a negative image of the EU was second lowest in the EU after Lithuania (7%). Meanwhile, 27% of Irish people have a neutral image of the EU.
On average, 40% of people across the EU have a positive image of the EU, 37% have a neutral and 21% have a negative. Greece (27%) had the lowest share of people with a positive image of the EU.
Irish people are also by far the most optimistic about the future of the EU at 84% (up 4 percentage points since the autumn), followed by Luxembourg and Portugal (both 71%). The EU average was 58%, dropping to 43% in the UK and 42% in Greece.
Speaking to the media following this week's round of Brexit negotiations, the EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier said: 'Our backstop cannot be extended to the whole UK. Why? Because it has been designed for the specific situation of Northern Ireland.
What does it do?
- On customs, Northern Ireland would form part of our customs territory. What is feasible with a territory the size of Northern Ireland is not necessarily feasible with the whole UK.
- On regulatory alignment, we have been pragmatic and developed the least disruptive system for citizens and businesses on both sides.
Let's go back to pragmatism. Checks carried out on ferries are less disruptive than along a 500km-long land border. In addition, these checks can build on arrangements and facilities which already exist – which already exist – between the rest of the UK and Northern Ireland.'
See below for the full text of Mr Barnier's speech.
Speaking in Dublin today, Joost Korte, Director General of DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission said: “Access to affordable, full-time quality childcare in Ireland remains difficult and is the most expensive in the EU for lone parents and second highest for couples. These factors have a negative effect on women's employment rate which stood at 65.4 % in 2016. The Single Affordable Childcare Scheme approved in December 2017 is an important initiative that needs to be swiftly implemented.”
The Commission is proposing to create a Reform Support Programme and a European Investment Stabilisation Function. Both proposals are part of the broader agenda to deepen Europe's Economic and Monetary Union and make use of the EU budget to strengthen the performance and resilience of our interdependent economies.
The Reform Support Programme will support priority reforms in all EU Member States, with an overall budget of €25 billion. It comprises three elements: a Reform Delivery Tool, to provide financial support for reforms; a Technical Support Instrument, to offer and share technical expertise; and a Convergence Facility, to help Member States on their way to joining the euro.
The European Investment Stabilisation Function will help stabilise public investment levels and facilitate rapid economic recovery in cases of significant economic shocks in Member States of the euro area and those participating in the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II). This Function will complement the role of existing national automatic stabilisers. Subject to strict criteria of sound macroeconomic and fiscal policies, loans of up to €30 billion can be rapidly mobilised, together with an interest rate subsidy to cover their cost.
According to the latest annual European bathing water quality report published this week, 71.8% of Irish swimming sites monitored in 2017 met the European Union's highest and most stringent 'excellent' quality standard for waters mostly free from pollutants. The EU average was 85%.
The report also showed that Ireland (4.9%) had the second highest share of bathing waters classified as 'poor'.
The European Commission is proposing new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.
Together these constitute 70% of all marine litter items. The new rules are proportionate and tailored to get the best results. This means different measures will be applied to different products. Where alternatives are readily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market. For products without straight-forward alternatives, the focus is on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption; design and labelling requirements and waste management/clean-up obligations for producers. Together, the new rules will put Europe ahead of the curve on an issue with global implications.