Dáil debates

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Ceisteanna - Questions

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

4:25 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I am awaiting the specific calculations in the context of constant and current. I will not take heed of any figure that is thrown about. There was always a difference between current and constant. The important achievement with regard to the CAP is that we have protected the funding during this round. That is particularly important in light of the significant pressure in the context of getting an agreement to reduce the funding.

There is a health programme within the MFF. It is still there. What was proposed was a significant addition to the next generation fund the Commission had proposed. Ideologically, several states - they have been dubbed the frugal four - were against any grant-based approach being taken. This is an unprecedented package. Health is primarily a competency of member states. Europe does not have competency regarding the provision of health services within member states. There are certain rights and entitlements in this area. This issue was about the procurement of vaccines and similar matters, as well as joint approaches to which Ireland has already signed up. Ireland is involved in an EU-wide approach in respect of vaccine development and procurement in the context of Covid-19. The discussion involved states that were in favour of loans, rather than grants, being allocated to member states which are vulnerable as a result of Covid and which might need them.

The Deputy may remember that Chancellor Merkel and President Macron originally proposed a package of €500 billion. The Commission went way beyond that with a €750 billion package that is divided into grants and loans. That was the battleground for the summit. I fought strongly and intervened regularly to state that Ireland wanted the right package in the context of responding to the scale of the impact of the Covid crisis on the European economy. It was vital that an agreement was reached. The agreement reached is unprecedented in terms of the European Union collectively borrowing for the first time ever to respond to a global pandemic of this scale. That needs to be acknowledged. The 27 member states represented at the Council meeting had all sorts of competing interests. Several member states, including Ireland, took what I consider to be the correct line and stated that it is no longer about competing national interests but, rather, about doing the right thing for Europe as a collective.

Ireland exports to mainland Europe. European markets are vital to our agricultural industry and many SMEs and other companies, jobs and services. The Single Market has been very important to Ireland and our growth and development as an economy. Deputy Boyd Barrett may disagree that this is the case. He may not agree with the Single Market or the economic model that governs it, but the development of the European Union has had a very beneficial economic impact on Ireland from the 1970s onwards. That is the context in which member states argued over the agreement.

On the issues Deputies identified in the context of the net contributor status of Ireland, the country is now a net contributor to the MFF. The figures in that regard will have to be calculated because this latest package involved a higher number. I will get the exact figures for the Deputy. In fact, Ireland will now benefit in the context of the contribution to the fund in respect of the repayments that where to have been made until to 2058. We would have been paying far more if there were more grants, to be frank, although I did not see it through that prism. Rather, I saw it as a matter of engineering economic recovery in Europe and showing solidarity with other countries which, ultimately, will benefit Ireland. In key areas such as Brexit, the PEACE PLUS programme and the CAP, we preserved the essentials we went in with in the context of the MFF.


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