Statements by MoS McEntee on Ireland’s position on the future of Europe
Speech18 April 2019
Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee speaking at a Future of Europe event in Limerick.
Helen McEntee TD, Minister of State for European Affairs
Dáil Éireann, Thursday, 18 April 2018
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I would like to thank all of the Deputies for their contribution to this evening’s debate. I have listened with interest to everything that you have said.
I would also like to acknowledge the contribution which both the Houses have made to wider debate on the future of Europe, through the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs and by engaging with us on the Citizens’ Dialogue process which has helped to shape the National Statement.
The famous Schuman Declaration of 1950 states that: “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan.”
Those words have proven true throughout the history of our Union. We have come a long way since those early imaginings of a European Coal and Steel Community. And we are by far the better for it.
Europe has always worked hard to anticipate and adapt to changing circumstances and to meet new demands as needed. Today is no different.
We are facing into a year of change – the upcoming European Parliament elections, the appointment of a new European Commission and President of the European Council, and the adoption of a new Strategic Agenda to guide the work of the institutions for the next five years.
We are all well aware of the challenges and uncertainties that we now face, but also of the opportunities and protections which membership affords us.
The preparation the new Strategic Agenda offers a welcome opportunity to embrace the spirit of the Schuman Declaration and to ensure that our plans are fit for the times and that they can meet the needs and expectations of our citizens.
To know what our citizens want, we have to listen them.
As Minister of State for European Affairs, I have had the privilege of travelling around the country and listening to their concerns and to their ambitions. I am pleased that we have been able to address many of these issues in the National Statement.
The statement reflects what we have heard from them about the importance of preserving what we have achieved, of upholding our values, and of forging a way forward that ensures both fairness and opportunity, and delivers on the full potential of membership.
I have been struck by the enthusiasm, even passion, which many of our citizens, and particularly our young people, have for our membership of the European Union. If anyone has any doubts about the value membership, I would encourage them to look at any one of the countries working hard to meet the criteria for accession.
Since my appointment as Minister of State for European Affairs, I have had the opportunity to visit several of the countries in the Western Balkans. Their enthusiasm for membership is both palpable and inspiring - often acting as a powerful motivator to undertake the necessary, sometimes difficult, reforms to prepare for the responsibilities of membership.
It is vital, as the National Statement states, that a credible enlargement process for the region remains a key component of the EU’s foreign policy.
Like many of those countries, we too can remember what it is like to endure a long wait for membership.
In 1972, the then-Taoiseach Jack Lynch led the Dáil Debate on the terms of our accession to the European Economic Community. Addressing the critics of membership, he said that “the issue is one of confidence in the capacity of our people to make a success of membership”.
More than 45 years later we can look with pride on what we have achieved. In this year of great change for the Union, we can acknowledge that there is more to do, but we remain confident in our capacity to make a collective success of our membership.
The National Statement clearly sets out our priorities for the next five years and I commend it to the House.
My thanks to the Cathaoirleach for making the time available for this evenings debate and to all of the Deputies for their contribution.
18 April 2019