Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs
Presidency of the Council of the European Union: Discussion with Minister of State
I welcome the Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs, Deputy Lucinda Creighton, and her officials to the joint committee. I also welcome the ambassadors and embassy staff. There is only standing room today, which is a good indication of the level of interest in the Irish Presidency. The next time Ireland will host the Presidency will be in 2027-2030 at the earliest. That is a long time away. This is a very important period to host the European Presidency and it is important for us in all the circumstances. I wish Deputy Creighton every success during the Irish Presidency.
I welcome the fact that the budget will be considered during the term of the Irish Presidency. My colleague, Deputy O'Reilly, raised issues on the Common Agricultural Policy but I think the CAP budget has a better chance of succeeding under the Irish Presidency than at present.
The European Union is a major contributor in terms of aid to the Gaza region, but the EU was sidelined in relation to the resolution between Palestine and Israel. Egypt and America, but not Europe, were involved. Ireland did not play a significant role, if any, in the settlement. I believe we should be more active in that regard. This is part of the portfolio of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. There are renegotiations in the World Trade Organisation during the year. These should present exciting opportunities during our Presidency.
Youth unemployment has been raised. We could establish a European volunteer corps under the appropriate armies for peace. We could create a situation in which one would utilise the skills of young people, tradesmen, carpenters, electricians and so on. We should try to eliminate the shanty towns in the likes of Nairobi, South Africa and Haiti. There is such demand to try to eliminate world poverty and create better living conditions. We have the capability and capacity at this point for a five-year programme which would really make a difference. Instead of sending only aid, which was misappropriated in one particularly country, we could look at providing a European peace corps, in which young unemployed people would be paid by the Irish State and then sent to be gainfully employed on providing services such as water, sewerage facilities and housing in Third World countries. We could do something that would mark the Irish Presidency. No other country has a finer tradition of giving to world aid. Irish missionaries went to the Third World. I would like to bring this idea to another level and intend to promote the idea of a European volunteer corps.