Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 29 May 2019
Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs
Alliance Building to Strengthen the European Union (Resumed): European Council on Foreign Relations
I thank Ms Möller for appearing before the committee today and providing us with a good overview of the work of her organisation. It is quite interesting and is the type of thing I could find myself playing with in the evenings as I try to figure out the relationships that exist across the European Union. I am looking at the screen before me and specifically at Poland and the tiny blue dot regarding its commitment to deeper integration. There is always a latent aspect to any data and information and my fear is that those who are seeking coalitions on that issue, for example, would decide to scrap Poland, saying there is no point in going there, and move on.
Returning to what Deputy Durkan said, the new European Union that will exist in a post-Brexit world will require that coalitions are built based on a topic or specific interest. We will find ourselves, perhaps, seeking German support for financial issues, French support for agricultural issues and so forth. When building the coalition one takes the major partner and tries to assemble the smaller countries around it to have a critical mass for the particular project. This is where Ms Möller's data are excellent because one can figure out which state one wishes to marry for a particular issue. Those marriages might be short-lived as one moves on to the next issue and changes coalition partner. What the European Council on Foreign Relations is doing is very good from that point of view.
I always get a little concerned when we talk about engaging with capitals around the European Union. I agree with Deputy Durkan that we have to bring the citizens to Europe, not Europe to the citizens. There is a disconnect in that regard and I have long had the view that we should engage as far down as local authority or regional authority level and even try to build coalitions between regional authorities in different parts of the world. I have just returned from Saxony in Germany where I spent some time. I am chairman of the German interparliamentary friendship group and I love to travel there because the people there are so committed. In Saxony over the last week I could have been in Ireland. We all have the same interests and I found a huge correlation between the things that interest me and those that interested people in Saxony, for example, how they dealt with the housing crisis after the reunification of Germany and other such matters. We have a great deal to learn from each other.
Ms Möller's software can allow me to pick a menu of countries I want to engage with in the first instance. It will also point out the countries we need to engage with to build their interest in topics in which they are not quite interested or have not shown a great interest. Looking at one of the other graphs, it appears that part of the problem is that there is a learning curve as one goes further east in Europe. It has not yet fully adopted the European ideal, what is available and how to build coalitions. Over time one will see the blue dots getting bigger across Europe. This is very interesting stuff. It allows the ordinary public representative who is not involved at European level to browse and see what is going on and who is making alliances with whom. It is very good material and I compliment the organisation on it. I would like to see more of it.