Gay Mitchell pleads for humanitarian aid / development budget during a debate in the Parliament- 06 February 2013
February 7, 2013
During a debate in Parliament on the preparations of the European Council, Gay Mitchell made a special plea for the humanitarian aid / development budget. EU leaders are meeting in Brussels on 7th and 8th February to agree a deal on the next multinannual financial framework, the EU’s budget for the period 2014-2020.
Mr. Mitchell also co-authored letters together with the Coordinators of the Development Committee to Presidents Van Rompuy, Barroso and Schulz expressing concern at the proposed cuts in the Development and Humanitarian Aid Budget. The letters explain the need to protect these budgets as they are vital to the lives of the poorest in the world.
Click here to see Gay Mitchell’s intervention
Gay Mitchell welcomes President Hollande’s call for enhanced cooperation and greater solidarity across EU
February 5, 2013
Gay Mitchell MEP (Dublin) has welcomed the call for ‘greater solidarity’ and ‘enhanced cooperation’ from the French President, Francois Hollande, who countered the sentiments of the British Prime Minister, during a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg today (Tuesday).
“President Hollande expressed a completely different view to that of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron. President Hollande called for more Europe, greater solidarity and enhanced cooperation between Member States, pointing out that the EU is not only about the Single Market,” Mr Mitchell, the leader of the Fine Gael delegation in the European Parliament said.
“In what was clearly intended to be response to the speech by Mr Cameron on the British membership question, Mr Hollande warned that ‘time and tide waits for no one’ and that there is a need to get every Member State on board but that working together through enhanced cooperation for those who wanted to move ahead was necessary for the future prosperity of Europe.”
Mr Mitchell also noted key indications for Ireland and other bailout countries: “Mr Hollande acknowledged the need to defend and help EU countries facing difficulties.
“In his speech, he commended the European model which he said is envied on all other continents. He said that the crisis is behind the Eurozone but debt must continue to be reduced. He was emphatic about the serious issue of unemployment and said there could be no respite until this is addressed. He said that endless austerity was not the answer but that we need the greater stability and solidarity.
“From an Irish perspective, much of what he said should be welcomed,” Mr Mitchell concluded.
‘French President should be straight talking on future of EU when addressing European Parliament next Tuesday’ – Gay Mitchell MEP
February 1, 2013
President Francois Hollande is to address the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg, as part of a debate on the future of the European Union, next Tuesday (February 5th, at around 9:30am Irish time).
“Following the speech made by Prime Minister David Cameron, a case for further integration of Europe should be put on the table by a governmental equal,” Gay Mitchell MEP (Dublin) said during a school visit in Rathgar this morning.
“President Hollande could make that case. This is a time for leadership. Mr Cameron has every right to set out his case and he makes some good points. However, if the EU is to contemplate its future all the way through the next British Parliament we would be longer debating the issue than we have been dealing with the crisis to date.”
Mr Mitchell, a former Minister for European Affairs, continued: “We live in a democratic Europe, and the leadership of Britain in bringing that about must be graciously acknowledged. This means all views should be heard. I earnestly hope Monsieur Hollande will be crystal clear in putting an alternative view so that a balanced and informed debate can take place.
“There is a time for beating around the bush, and a time for straight talking. Europe cannot afford the luxury of seven more years of debate. Let’s have the straight talking now,” Mr Mitchell concluded.
January 29, 2013
Gay Mitchell co-chaired a meeting between EPP MEPs and members of National Parliaments, with Minister of State Lucinda Creighton on 28th January in the European Parliament.
The ‘European Semester’ is a cycle of economic policy coordination between Member States. The EPP meeting took place in the context of a week-long debate on the European Semester between the European Parliament and members of National Parliaments. For the first time, Members of national Parliaments, parliamentary officials and Members of the European Parliament who sit in the Committees on Economic and Monetary Affairs, Budgets and Employment and Social Affairs will debate possible solutions for sustainable economic growth.
January 25, 2013
Gay Mitchell MEP speech in Seanad Eireann, 24th January 2013
The role of the EU, with particular reference to economic affairs and third world issues: Marking Ireland’s 40th year of membership.
In speaking of the role and history of the European Union I hope in my contribution here today to show there is cause for optimism, not pessimism; that solidarity is essential and that interdependence is the key.
Where we are now
I want to acknowledge at the outset that there are many people in Ireland who are being left behind and others who cannot make ends meet. That is something we together must put at the centre of our concerns.
We will get out of our present predicament, but there will, of course, be economic downturns in the future. The difference next time will be that the EU, including Ireland, will have put in, and will continue to put in, foundations that should have been put in place in the past. Future recovery – which I believe is well on the way – will be more sustainable. Therefore recovery will last longer and future challenges will be capable of being met. Europe stared into the abyss of economic instability and has pulled back from the brink. We are managing the crisis, but much work remains to be done to sustain the momentum and to prevent slippage.
The reality of that progress is not immediately evident in an overview of the current state of the Irish Economy: Ireland’s debt to GDP ratio should be a maximum of 60%, it was as low as 25%. It is now almost 112% – some of this due to socialising bank losses, some is due to long-term spending commitments set against short-term cash inflows which dried up. The interest we pay on this is enormous but we are given some protection from the market rates by EU assistance, and pay the considerably reduced interest rate of 3.3%. In addition, the European Central Bank supplied up to €160 billion in liquidity funds at an interest rate of 1% or less to keep our economy afloat. We continued in 2012 to spend €15 billion more than the Exchequer took in, adding this to an already unsustainable debt. By moving to bring our annual budget into balance we stop adding to debt and this in turn restores international confidence so that recovery will follow, our economy grows and the debt/GDP issue can be solved by growth (as it was in the 1990s). Furthermore, to help get our budget into balance Ireland must and, I believe, will get a rescheduling of the Anglo Irish/Nationwide Promissory Note.
Clearly, we have much to do to make society a better place, a fairer place. While looking to greater solidarity within the EU – a two-way street – we also need greater solidarity at home. What is truly shocking is the fact that many people remained dependent on the Saint Vincent de Paul Society at the height of the Celtic Tiger years.
Origins of the European Union
As World War II came to an end, there was general revulsion from the damage that war had wrought on the continent of Europe and the way in which Europe’s rivalries had embroiled the rest of the world, with appalling results.
A number of national Statesmen realised that Europe could not be re-built the way it had been. Europe was losing its colonies; its world standing was reducing as the United States became ever more dominant in the world order, and all against the immediate backdrop of a threatening Soviet armed and belligerent presence in half of the continent. The instigators of European integration all shared the same desire for the pacification of Europe, not through a system of power balances, but by the reconciliation of European nations.
Story of Ireland’s membership
We are marking today the 40th anniversary of Irish membership of the European Union. As those of us who were around then recall, the debate about accession transfixed the country.
Why did Ireland join the EEC as it then was in 1973?
As with all these events, there were a number of complex reasons. Ireland was extremely dependent on agriculture, with more than 30% of its working population engaged in farming, and others dependent on the processing industry. Both agricultural and industrial exports were dependent on the British market. When the United Kingdom decided that it would seek to join the Common Market, there was concern in Ireland that access to its principal market could be cut off. Equally, the
Common Agricultural Policy offered a structure to Irish farmers, with guaranteed prices for farm produce. Given the importance of agriculture and given the numbers engaged in farming, this was an attractive option.
There was a recognition among policy experts that Irish industry was not in a strong position to compete on the basis of free trade, but since the Lemass/Whitaker reforms of the late fifties, there was also a sense that the on-going protectionism, which had characterised the early economic orthodoxy of the new state, was not working and that Ireland needed to take the risk of entering into a free trade arrangement.
At the same time, there was a sense among many that membership of the Common Market would enable Ireland to open out intellectually. The inevitable, post-colonial, dominance of London could be challenged and Ireland could be opened to wider influences as it had not been since the eighteenth century.
Since we joined
In 1983, Greece became a member, and in 1986, it was followed by Portugal and Spain.
The most significant changes came at the very end of the decade. As the grip of the Soviet Union weakened across central Europe, it was clear that the final days of the Second World War had played themselves out.
Enlargement of the European Union to include the countries of Central Europe was a fulfilment of the objective of the founders of the European project. The new Member States were, in particular, the countries which had been caught up in the wars which had raged through Europe over centuries. The fact that they could be integrated into a functioning, prosperous and democratic structure such as the European Union was a truly historic, if not miraculous, achievement.
The Iron Curtain is no more and we have built stability on our continent through interdependence.
Based on the report of the Committee chaired by the late Senator Jim Dooge, who also contributed so much to this House, and the Commission’s White Paper on Completing the Internal Market, the Single European Act was negotiated and agreed so as to reduce remaining protectionism, based on four freedoms:
1. Free Movement of People
2. Free Movement of Goods
3. Free Movement of Services
4. Free Movement of Capital
All these policies are underpinned by a strong competition and consumer policy.
The introduction of the Euro was the logical consequence of the development of the Single Market. No market of this nature could function without the elimination of the risks and costs involved in variable exchange rates. The need for stability of currencies is central to the success of a single market – the free movement of capital, people and goods is hampered if currencies can be devalued from one day to the next, leading to unfair advantage and trade distortions. The Euro brings strengths and opportunities arising from the integration and scale of the European economy, and maximises the advantages of a single market.
Origins of recent crisis in Europe and Ireland
The Euro area, when it was finally struck by its first serious financial crisis in 2008-2009, was hit twice, firstly by the level of huge pre-crisis public and private debt overhangs and secondly by an inadequate institutional design that prevented the kind of rapid and nimble responses required. More broadly, the crisis exposed the problems in the structure of the Eurozone, which escaped notice in the good times. So measures had to be introduced to strengthen economic governance.
It is in our response to the crisis that we are building more sustainable progress for the future.
Bank Supervision & Recapitalisation
Soon there will be a new form of bank supervision in the EU, accompanied by bank recapitalisation measures. Ireland must and will benefit from bank recapitalisation. If debt as a % of GDP is the measure used to monitor all Member States we must have both debt and GDP measured in the same way in every Member State. You cannot measure by litres in one Member State and metres in another, so to speak. All of these actions are helping to restore confidence and pave the way for recovery. There remain structural problems in Southern Europe and these need to be addressed in a sympathetic way – again solidarity across the Union is key.
The Global Potential
Most, not all, people in economically and politically advanced countries can take for granted those material goods that were once the constant preoccupation and anxious concern of every man, woman, and child: adequate food, safe and comfortable shelter, sufficient clothing, basic medicine, productive work and opportunities for leisure. However, progress has created new problems such as the proliferation of nuclear weapons, economic crises, civil wars, ecological disasters and environmental threats.
And there are potential causes of international instability. What is to be the future of Russia: Social Market Economy/Democracy or Oligarchy? We import into the EU about one third of our total gas, crude oil and coal imports from Russia; 80% of all Russian oil exports go to the EU. China? Will a middleclass grow, democracy take root, the economic miracle continue? What is the future of India and Pakistan? The Middle-East after the Arab Spring? Latin America?
The EU is respected in these and other regions and has a role to play in building international stability and interdependence. For me, interdependence is both the strength and the objective of the whole European project.
Let me turn briefly to the global situation. In the developing world 23,000 children still die every day. The good news is that this used to be 36,000 per day and the EU is investing as much as the rest of the world added together so as to tackle this obscenity. The EU and its Member States are the biggest contributors of Aid to the developing world representing over 50% of Official Development Assistance. For selfish and selfless reasons this is the right thing to do but much more must be done.
By 2050 there will be 2 billion extra people on the face of the earth. 90% of these will be born into the developing world. Are we to invest in these countries, help them develop and make them our trading partners, and simply our partners, or are we to leave a terrible inheritance of potential mayhem and global instability to our children? The EU, through the EU-ACP Assembly and various agreements, is striving to address these issues, even if imperfectly and insufficiently, in partnership with developing countries, because this is the just thing to do. There is progress to report, many developing countries are charging ahead, and people are being lifted out of poverty at the fastest rate ever recorded. The death toll inflicted by war and natural disasters is also mercifully lower.
In Europe we also need to put more emphasis on justice. The Social Market Economy is based on a number of elements. It is not geared only towards performance but is based primarily on a respect for human dignity, free from unwarranted control.
However, incentive systems that decouple risk and liability contradict the spirit of the social market economy. A market economy which serves exclusively the interests of capital cannot be called social. The global GDP increased by a factor of seven over the first 1800 years of the common era and, since then, has surged by 70 times , indicating that the social market economy can bring extraordinary benefits for the common good. However, this success has been possible because the free economic system has reformed constantly to meet the challenge of the day. It must reform again. It is time to put social back into the Social Market Economy.
Perfect Stock Markets?
Robert J. Schiller, Professor of Economics at Yale University, in his most recent book Finance and the Good Society states: it appears that stock market price changes in the United States have been mostly due merely to changes in moods or attitudes or something else unrelated to the actual changes in real underlying values.
He also points out that, in fact, U.S companies fared much better in the Great Depression than is commonly suggested by embellished stories. Not a single company of the thirty in the Dow Jones Industrial Average went bankrupt. Generally, large U.S companies did well, lowering their dividend payments for a few years before resuming the trend.
He continues: “Most financial writers have apparently never heard of excess volatility, and they continue to write their stories about the day-to-day fluctuations in the stock market as if the market were dominated by traders with razor-sharp minds and fast computers who have a deep understanding of the economy and grasp the import of every nuance in today’s economic news.”
He concludes, “Many traders do indeed have sharp minds, but the game they are playing is not generally to involve themselves in macroeconomic forecasting. They are instead playing a game against each other – a game of guessing each other’s psychology.”
Schiller points to the decline in the partnership structure on Wall Street which may have contributed to the severe financial crisis that began in 2007, because it appears to have reduced the incentives to manage long-term reputation and long-term risks in favour of a structure that encourages rapid growth of the company (Lehman Brothers was a partnership until 1984, Goldman Sachs until 1999, Bear Stearns until 1985 and Merrill Lynch until 1971). So the ultimate collapse of firms such as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and others – and the economy as a whole – may be related to the changes wrought by the end of the partnership structure”, he says.
Putting our economies back in good shape is not all the responsibility of politicians; businesses and others must also step up to the plate. The markets invested against the Euro expecting to make profits and they lost; they invested against individual Member States and lost. Italy, for example, is now getting 15-year money at 4.8% from the markets. There are very few places for the markets to go. It is time they went back to investing in reality. The Euro is here to stay; Member States will not be left abandoned. The ECB has the firepower to take on the currency gamblers.
Then and now
Right now, most EU states need cash flow and confidence. Bringing our budget deficits under control and not continuing to add to bloating national debt is essential. This in itself is bringing, and will bring, confidence. Compare this to the 1930s when it was every country for itself and beggaring your neighbour was of no concern.
Despite the recent economic crisis, the EU has been a great success. Never in our history have so many countries had such a continuous time of peace. Never in our history has the average wealth of each European country been so high. And never in our history has Europe had such good relations, both internally and with our neighbours and partners. How we act now will determine our stability and prosperity into the future.
In the first half of the 20th century approximately 60 million Europeans killed each other in two World Wars that started on our continent. Now Europe is at peace, the Berlin Wall has disappeared and 10 former Soviet-dominated states joined the EU.
Research conducted by political scientists Bruce Russett and John Oneal, in which they examine statistical data on wars around the world from 1886 to 1992 for their book Triangulating Peace, concludes that three variables help explain the likelihood of countries going to, or not going to, war: economic interconnectedness, democratic traditions, and membership in international organisations. All three factors help prevent wars and when all three are at their most favourable the probability of war is reduced by 71%. Of these factors Russett and Oneal found economic interconnectedness to be the most important. The fate of the former Yugoslavia shows what can happen when this interconnectedness breaks down.
To date the EU, which is still a work in progress, has shown remarkable resilience in dealing with the crisis. We have some way to go but let’s at least acknowledge the progress that is being made. Together we can build what Schiller calls the Good Society. This requires intent and tenacity. It also requires institutional capacity. Markets are of course important but traders don’t have disinterested razor sharp minds and psychological games are best ignored.
When Ireland joined what is now the EU, our per capita income was a little over half that of the average of the then nine members. Today our per capita income at €35,455, based on 2011 figures, is three times that of fellow EU and Euro member Estonia. When we joined, we had waiting lists of up to five years for telephones and our biggest export was people; our population at one point went below three million. We now have a diversified economy with IT, financial services, agriculture/food, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing. We have one EU Commissioner, just like Germany and Britain, the Secretary-General of the Commission is Irish, we are disproportionately represented in Parliament and have one Minister at the Council of Ministers, like all other States.
This month we commenced our 7th Presidency of the EU. I believe we became sovereign the day we joined the Union. It gave us a real say in the world and the possibility to shape an agreed, peaceful and prosperous future. Up until then our interest rates and the value of our currency was decided by Britain. In the Euro Area they are set by a Central Bank into which we have input. The EU is not perfect; it is, as I said, a work in progress, but it has served Ireland and Europe well. The EU won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. As we mark 40 years of Irish Membership we should reflect on the remarkable achievements that have blessed Europe and Ireland.
Yes there is need for solidarity in Europe, but it is also much needed at home. We don’t just need solidarity between Member States, we need solidarity between people. There is more than enough to go around in Ireland. It’s time to stop cursing the darkness; each of us can light a candle. There is a job to be done in repairing our economy. But let us not mistake the term economy for Society. We can build what Schiller calls The Good Society. We have the tools, we can do this job in solidarity.
Gay Mitchell speaks during a debate about the Programme of the Irish Presidency in the European Parliament
January 17, 2013
Gay Mitchell MEP intervened during a debate in Plenary about the Programme of the Irish Presidency of the EU, highlighting the importance of language in these challenging times and the need to talk about growth, jobs, stability, hope and solidarity. Click below to view Mr. Mitchell’s speech.
January 16, 2013
During a debate in Plenary on the situation in Mali, Gay Mitchell MEP spoke about the military intervention in the context of peace enforcement. He also spoke of the need to fight for the humanitarian and development aid budget to ensure peaceful development of the region. Click on the below link to view Mr. Mitchell’s intervention.
December 20, 2012
Gay Mitchell MEP has produced a booklet entitled ‘A History of the European Union- From the Treaty of Rome to the Stability Treaty’ to mark our 40 years of EU membership. If you would like a copy, please send an email to
email@example.com with your name and address.
December 19, 2012
Click on the link below to see Gay Mitchell’s exchange with ECB President Mario Draghi during an ECON Committee Monetary Dialogue on 17th December:
December 11, 2012
The European Parliament gave its consent today to a Trade Agreement between the European Union and Colombia and Peru. Gay Mitchell spoke on the issue during a debate with Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht last night in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Click on the link below to hear Mr Mitchell ask the Commissioner that human rights commitments be adhered to: