Commissioner Phil Hogan
Speech at Europe Day Event
EU Offices, Dublin, 9th May 2017
Thank you for your introduction Gerry,
Ambassadors, Minister Murphy, MEP Clune, ladies and gentlemen, my fellow Europeans,
I’m very happy to be here with you in Dublin for Europe Day 2017. In many ways, we are meeting at a significant moment.
This is a significant day – Europe Day is an important annual opportunity to think about where we are, and where we are going, on the journey of European cooperation.
This is a significant month – the EU has put Irish concerns at the heart of its Brexit negotiation text, while Emanuel Macron has won a crucially important pro-European victory in France.
And this is a significant year, as we celebrate 60 years of European peace and prosperity. It has also been a year where the people of Ireland have had to think very hard about what we want our relationship with the EU to be going forward.
I am heartened by today's Red C poll which indicates that 9 out of every 10 Irish people think Ireland should remain in the European Union, rising to 99% among full-time students. Congratulations to the European Movement Ireland for initiating this timely piece of polling.
Despite our location at Europe’s periphery, we have always managed to make our voices heard across this continent. Our development as a nation has been shaped by the two-way traffic to and from our mainland neighbours. And this two-way traffic reached the peak of its expression when Ireland joined the EEC in 1973.
That decision has served us very well.
Since 1973, membership has helped to raise the social and economic standards of our country to unprecedented heights. Irish businesses have unhindered access to a market of over 500 million people.
An estimated 700,000 jobs have been created in Ireland during the years of membership; trade has increased 90 fold; and Foreign Direct Investment has increased dramatically from just €16 million in 1972 to more than €30 billion today.
Between 1973 and 2014, Ireland received over €72.5 billion from the EU, including €54 billion for farmers and rural areas from the Common Agricultural Policy.
And like so many other European nations, the EU gave us a supporting platform to heal some of our own historical scars. European Union membership - and significant amounts of European funding – bolstered the Northern Ireland peace process.
Let me also give a special mention to the countries that have joined the EU since the dawn of the new millennium.
This year is the 10 year anniversary of Romania and Bulgaria's accession, and let me say to the Ambassadors of those countries who are present here today, our continent is the better and the stronger for your membership.
Now we need to think about what comes next. The decision by our closest neighbours to leave the bloc has shaken the EU, and it has shaken Ireland above any other Member State. So many old certainties have disappeared. But since June EU leaders are facing the challenge with impressive resolve and unity.
There is a growing collective understanding that we must work together to build a Union that delivers even more results for our people. And there is a growing consensus that we must begin to speak up for Europe more forcefully and directly than ever before.
This latter challenge is one in which we all have a stake, and one in which we all must assume our responsibilities.
I think it is safe to assume all in this room are committed Europeans. We know how it works and how, in many instances it could work better.
We should be proud of what we have all helped to build: a political union of 27 members, 22 languages, 1716 regions – a continent of peace and prosperity where for the previous 10,000 years, the norm was war.
Today I am calling on you to exercise your responsibilities as European citizens. Brexit and the rise of nationalistic populism across Europe have moved the goalposts.
It is no longer enough for pro-Europeans to offer their silent support. We all have to get up off our hands and speak up. Yes Ireland has a strong European conviction. Ireland routinely scores among the highest in Eurobarometer polls asking people if they feel "well informed" about the activities of their MEPs, for example. And it is also true that we don’t have any explicitly Eurosceptic parties in this country.
But we must not be complacent - there is simply too much at stake. Irish citizens must resist the anti-EU voices in our country who feel emboldened by Brexit. Partnership with our European neighbours is the only sane option. We should continue to play an active role by influencing the upcoming negotiations to limit the damage from Brexit.
It is in Ireland's interest – but also very firmly in Europe's interest – to ensure that the EU and UK maintain a sensible, mutually beneficial relationship post-Brexit.
And here at home, we need to be more assertive for Europe. We're not alone in this. Something new and very positive is happening in several European countries: slowly but surely, citizens are taking to the streets or the Internet, or both, in an attempt to counter the loudening Eurosceptic, anti-immigrant, anti-globalist messages of populists and nationalists.
And I would also remind you that this activity is not taking place in a political void. In recent months, right-wing populists have failed to win three prominent European elections in a row: in Austria; in the Netherlands; and finally, as I mentioned earlier in the French presidential election when a pro-European centrist, Emmanuel Macron, beat Marine Le Pen.
Politically, this is an opportune moment to make our voice heard at European level. The European Union post-Brexit will not be the same, and in many ways it will be more challenging, but as a mature, confident member of the club, Ireland can play a part in shaping a Union which delivers even more benefits for our citizens.
We must find better ways to face head-on some of the most pressing challenges of our time: climate change, migration, security, and finishing the construction of the Eurozone, to name but a few.
The White Paper published by the Commission in March sets out possible paths for the future of Europe. It offers five scenarios for the Union's evolution, depending on the choices we will make. I urge you to familiarise yourselves with the options and contribute to this debate, which is still in its early stage, and targeted at both national and local level.
Ladies and gentlemen, the EU is arguably the greatest vehicle for maximising small country influence in the history of the world. Few countries have benefited as much from EU membership as Ireland, and we owe it to ourselves and to our partners to do our part, now that the going is getting tough.
There will be new opportunities for Ireland – in agriculture, in business, in banking, in trade, and as the main English-language entry hub into the single market. Today, on Europe Day, let us vow to work together to do the best we can for a renewed and revitalised European Union. In so doing, the EU will continue to do the best it can for us. Thank you, and Happy Europe Day!
Today, May 9th is Europe Day. It marks the anniversary of the day in 1950 when French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman announced a new relationship with Germany after years of hostilities and two world wars.
He wanted France and Germany to pool the resources needed to go to war, coal and steel, so that war again in Europe would be impossible. This is turn led to the creation of the European Community, now known as the European Union, which began with the Treaty of Rome in 1957.
2017 is the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome between the six founding members, now grown to 28. With the exit of the UK, Europe stands at a new crossroads with the European Commission urging Member States to reflect on what they want from their future journey together.