Ireland is in 6th place on the 2018 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), up from 8th place in 2017, and behind Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
The Digital Economy and Society Index monitors the performance of EU Member States in five areas: digital connectivity, digital skills, online activity, the digitisation of businesses and digital public services.
The Spring 2018 European Economic Forecast puts GDP growth for Ireland at 5.7% in 2018, compared to 4.4% predicted in the Winter Economic Forecast in February of this year. This is the 2nd fastest growth rate in the EU for 2018, just behind Malta at 5.8%.
Predicted GDP growth for 2019 has also been increased – to 4.1% compared to 3.1% forecast in February.
The growth figure for 2017 has also been upped - to 7.8%, compared to a February forecast of 7.3%.
Unemployment is now forecast to reach 5.4% this year and 4.9% in 2019 compared to the Autumn Forecast of 5.5% for this year and 5.3% for 2019.
Gross public debt is also expected to fall further than previously forecast – to 65.6% this year and to 63.2% next year compared to the Autumn figures of 69.1% and 67.2%.
In a speech to the All Island Civic Dialogue in Dundalk today, Michel Barnier said that substantive progress on the backstop was needed before the June European Council.
He added: "I am confident that together, with the unity of the 27 and a constructive attitude on both sides, we will be able to agree on the right solution for avoiding a hard border and maintaining North-South cooperation in all its diversity. In all its creativity.
"Let me conclude: agreement on the orderly withdrawal, including the backstop for Ireland, will pave the way for constructive negotiations for a broad partnership for the future – not only on economics and trade, but also on a lot of areas of thematic cooperation – I am thinking of aviation, Erasmus + for the young, on internal and external security, defence and foreign policy.
"Together as the EU, together with the UK, we will move forward."
See below for the full text of Mr Barnier's speech.
From Monday 30 April 2018 – Tuesday 1 May 2018, Michel Barnier will visit Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Mr. Barnier has been invited to deliver a key-note speech at the All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit in Dundalk Institute of Technology, on Monday 30 April, where he will give an overview of the ongoing Article 50 negotiations with the UK. This will be followed by a Q&A.
EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan told members of Seanad Éireann this morning that Brexit had shaken the EU institutions from their slumber and that there was a noticeable new energy and desire to get things done. He said that Ireland should harness this energy to be at the heart of a brighter Future for Europe.
The Commission told Senators that the EU had stood with Ireland on Brexit: "... the Brexit storm has yet to pass, although we have, in the last couple of months, made good progress towards safeguarding our future. The EU has stood with Ireland, defended Ireland and, in doing so, has demonstrated its value. We are not out of the woods by any means. But we can draw confidence from everything that has happened so far. I firmly believe we have a European Union that is proud of us as members and of which we can be proud. I want us to build further on this foundation."
See below for the full text of Commissioner's speech.
The Commission has issued a set of recommendations for how the EU can strengthen cooperation in the fight against diseases that can be prevented by vaccines. The Commission's proposal focuses on 3 main pillars for action: tackling vaccine hesitancy and improving vaccination coverage; sustainable vaccination policies in the EU; and EU coordination and contribution to global health.
Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis said: ''Vaccination is one of the most powerful and cost-effective public health measures developed in the 20th century. As a medical doctor, I find it disheartening to witness children dying because of low uptake, vaccine hesitancy, or vaccine shortages. Infectious diseases are not confined within national borders. One Member State's immunisation weakness puts the health and security of citizens at risk across the EU. Cooperating in this area is in all of our interests. Protect our children, vaccinate!"
Today, the European Commission is proposing new company law rules to make it easier for companies to merge, divide or move within the Single Market.
The new rules will also ensure that employees' rights are well protected and tax abuse is prevented. The rules will stimulate the growth potential of European companies by digitalising the process of setting-up and running a business
A new Eurobarometer poll on Fairness, inequality and inter-generational mobility shows that Irish people are the most likely at 78% to think that most things that happen in their life are fair, highest in the EU. This feeling is shared by an average of 53% of people across the EU with respondents in Greece least likely to agree at 26%.
The survey also showed that 80% of Irish people agree that nowadays in their country they have equal opportunities for getting ahead in life, just behind Denmark and Sweden (both 81%). The EU average was 58% with Greece in bottom place at 18%.
And 74% of Irish people, highest in Europe, think that compared to 30 years ago opportunities for getting ahead in life have become more equal in their country. The EU average was 46% dropping to 21% in Greece and 22% in France.
The European Commission has concluded that Ireland's sugar sweetened drinks tax does not involve State aid. In particular, the Commission found that the measure's scope and design are consistent with the health objectives pursued by Ireland, namely tackling obesity and other sugar related diseases.
EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development Phil Hogan today (April 20th) stated that his top priority in the ongoing EU budget negotiation is "protecting the small and medium sized farmer who remains the backbone of Europe's food production and rural communities".
Ahead of a Citizens' Dialogue with 400 farmers in Kilkenny City, co-organised by the IFA and the European Commission Office in Ireland, Hogan said: "The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a European success story and I believe it represents excellent value for money for our citizens, guaranteeing them the best food quality and safety in the world and keeping our rural areas sustainable and attractive".
But he cautioned that "the challenge in defending the CAP is unprecedented this time around.