Summer Newsletter 202030 July 2020
I hope you are all well and enjoying the summer in spite of the challenging circumstances.
It is four months since I took over the post of Permanent Representative in April, at a moment of profound crisis as the Covid 19 virus spread around the globe.
My Covid related priority these past months has been to present the Government’s position in the coordinated EU effort to combat the virus, including joint procurement of much needed medical equipment, research into a vaccine, dealing with the devastating economic impact and the immediate effort of repatriating citizens stranded abroad.
While the onset of the pandemic took us all by surprise, the EU has since responded decisively to mitigate the negative impacts of the crisis on EU Member States and citizens and to protect the integrity of the Single Market.
On 21 July, after marathon negotiations at the level of the European Council, Member States reached agreement on an ambitious Recovery Fund and long-term budget for 2021-2027 worth €1.8 trillion, after what is reported to have been the second longest summit in EU history (after Nice in 2000). This is a critical step towards an EU-wide recovery that will benefit all countries and all EU citizens.
The package agreed will support an EU-wide recovery which is of critical importance to us as an exporting nation that depends on a strong Single Market. The deal also protects current levels of funding for Ireland under CAP and includes a Brexit Adjustment Reserve of €5 billion for countries and sectors most affected by the UK departure from the EU. It also includes a €120 million provision for a new PEACE PLUS programme as well as significant investment to further the goals of the Green and Digital agendas. The Taoiseach has outlined the benefits of the deal in detail to the Dáil which you can read here.
There has been other important work ongoing these past few months, including in relation to Brexit where the EU and the UK continue to negotiate on a framework for a new partnership, and to ensure the full implementation of the Protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement on Ireland/Northern Ireland. There is much work ongoing too to ensure that businesses and citizens are Brexit ready for when the transition period concludes at the end of this year. We will continue to work as part of the EU27 to ensure that our collective approach to these negotiations reflects our values and interests.
Work also continues on a range of other key issues for Ireland including in relation to furthering the EU green and digital agendas, the Conference on the Future of Europe, debate on the future of EU trade policy, as well as agriculture, transport, energy, enlargement, external relations and much more.
These past months have been challenging for all of us in different ways. Here at the Permanent Representation, most of our staff continue to telework from home and they strictly observe the measures such as social distancing necessary to defeat the virus.
During this period, some of our staff who form part on an informal photography group have been taking photos of life under COVID-19 restrictions here in Brussels and beyond. Our social media team has compiled these photos into a short video exhibition, which I am delighted to share with you. The video offers a poignant reflection of the strange times in which we’ve been living recently while also reminding us that the beauty of our surroundings and the creative spirit of our people continue to endure.
I hope there will be greater opportunity to meet with many of you in person over the coming months, but that will of course depend on the extent to which the virus is contained. In the meantime, I would encourage you all to continue to adhere to public health advice and take all necessary precautions.
At the same time, I hope you all take some time off and enjoy the rest of the summer.
Photo Exhibition: Life under COVID-19 restrictions