Address by H.E. Mr. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament

On my own behalf, and on behalf of my fellow Deputies, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to Mr. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament on this, his first visit as President. Your visit is particularly timely as Ireland prepares to take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from January next.

Before he was elected President of the European Parliament this year, Mr. Schulz had a distinguished career in European politics and as a committed and eminent parliamentarian. He was first elected as a Member of the European Parliament in 1994 where he served on the Committee for Civil Liberties and Home Affairs, as well as the Sub-Committee on Human Rights. He was elected leader of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament in 2004. As leader of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, Mr. Schulz campaigned for social justice, promoting jobs and growth, reforming financial markets, fighting climate change, championing equality and creating a stronger and more democratic Europe - ideals that we can all subscribe to and support, but ideals that are more important now than ever before.

There can be no denying that as Ireland assumes the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Europe faces a number of difficulties and trials, particularly the financial and economic crisis which has gripped many countries, including Ireland. Europe is experiencing low levels of growth and high levels of unemployment, particularly among our young people. Therefore, getting the European economy back on track is a priority for the Union. The ideals and values espoused by President Schulz are necessary if we are to confront and deal with the problems that we face. In addressing our challenges, let us remember the enduring values of solidarity, co-operation and hope which underpinned the EU’s establishment.

As a parliamentarian of long standing, and also a student of history with a keen passion for books, President Schulz will be aware that parliamentary democracy is the bedrock of peace, stability and prosperity. I share his views that closer co-operation between national parliaments and the European Parliament is a priority. Our Parliament, like others, has a crucial role to play in scrutinising the decisions and actions of government. At the same time, managing EU business through the scrutiny of the European Commission’s proposals and holding governments to account for their decisions at EU level is now a critical aspect of the work of national parliaments. Here in the Houses of the Oireachtas, EU business now forms an integral part of the work of our joint committees.

The Lisbon treaty considerably enhanced the powers of the European Parliament, making it a co-legislator with the Council in almost every area of EU law making. In addition, it has new powers in the EU budget process and in the conclusion of international agreements.

Here in Ireland I welcome the recent move to conclude a memorandum of understanding between our Parliament and the Government which will enable us to do EU business better and make best use of available resources. I understand that the memorandum is well advanced and should be in place before our Presidency begins in January.

At European level, it is only fair to acknowledge that in recent years, the role of national parliaments, and indeed the European Parliament, has been greatly strengthened. There is now a greater balance between the institutions and thus a stronger voice for Europe’s citizens in the legislative process. Of course, we recognise that the roles of national parliaments and the European Parliament may differ, but we also recognise that a close relationship and sustained inter-parliamentary co-operation is critical to ensuring that our common European system works overall.

President Schulz, we share similar visions for national parliaments and the European Parliament and I welcome your desire to strengthen dialogue and introduce a parliamentary week during which national and European parliamentarians would together take a close look at the annual growth report and the guidelines for national budgets. Not only would this lead to greater accountability by parliaments, it would also help address perceptions of a democratic deficit in Europe.

The parliamentary dimension of the EU Presidency has evolved considerably in recent years and as a parliament, we will play a key role in helping to achieve the overarching priorities for Ireland’s Presidency - to support a range of measures to secure sustainable economic growth and job creation, restore macroeconomic stability and enhance economic governance within the European Union.

There will be a strong parliamentary element to Ireland’s Presidency – the Houses of the Oireachtas will host eight inter-parliamentary meetings, to be attended by members of national parliaments and the European Parliament.

I look forward to working with the European Parliament during Ireland’s Presidency and in this context it gives me great pleasure to invite President Schulz to take his place in the Chamber and to address Members, following the Taoiseach’s statement to the House.

H.E. Mr. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, then took his seat on the dais in the Chamber.

Ar son an Rialtais agus ar son mhuintir na hÉireann, ba mhaith liom fíor fáilte a chur roimh an Úactaráin Schulz as ucht na cuairte seo ar ár bParliamint anseo i Dáil Éireann. It is an honour and a pleasure to receive President Schulz in Dáil Éireann, our national Parliament.

As all in this House will be well aware, Ireland will take up the role of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the seventh time and we will also celebrate the 40th anniversary of Ireland's joining what was then the European Economic Community from next January. During our Presidency, we will do our utmost to advance the work of the Council. This visit and today's address to this House by President Schulz represent essential preparatory steps in forging the relationships which will be essential to Ireland delivering a successful Presidency. In the same vein, I travelled yesterday with the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and a number of Government colleagues to Brussels to meet with President Barroso and the College of Commissioners, and we discussed our preparations for the Presidency at some length, as well as the current issues facing Europe. In the afternoon, I met with President Van Rompuy and held discussions ahead of what will be a very busy period for the European Council, with three meetings happening in the next 11 weeks.

Since the last Irish Presidency in 2004, there has been huge change within our Union. During our Presidency that year, ten new member states joined the Union. Their accession represented, in many ways, the reunification of a Europe divided since World War II and enriched our Union enormously. Since then, two more countries have joined, and we are about to become a circle of 28, with the Union soon to embrace Croatia. The Lisbon treaty, to which the president has referred, has been signed and ratified and it came into force three years ago. This has strengthened several aspects of European integration and has greatly extended the co-legislator role of the European Parliament, making it an indispensable partner for Council, and, therefore, for all Presidencies. One of our most important preparatory tasks for the Presidency, and one which we have prioritised, is to establish good working relations with the European Parliament. The Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs, Deputy Lucinda Creighton, will elaborate on this aspect of Ireland's work in her contribution later.

Following a decade of European growth and prosperity, from which Ireland particularly benefited, the economic crisis hit in 2008 and 2009. Mistakes were made in this economy and in the wider European and global systems. Tackling its enduring effects is of major importance at national level and European level as well. The Government has no greater priority than driving the economic recovery needed to provide the growth and jobs that our people and all people across Europe urgently need. The crisis has revealed the depth of interdependence between member states and the weaknesses in our shared economic governance. A series of decisions have been put on the agenda to improve economic governance on a European level. We have taken and implemented some and more will follow. We need to work hard and work together to get the EU and all its member states back on track.

As I have said on many occasions, Ireland will do everything it can to secure its economic recovery but we cannot do it on our own. We are an integral part of the euro area; we are an export driven economy; and we need a strong and stable currency and neighbours with growing economies and money to spend. For us to recover, Europe needs to move beyond crisis. We are, I believe, headed in the right direction.

In June, the European Council took another substantial step towards getting to grips with Europe's problems. It adopted a "Compact for Growth and Jobs" with an ambitious programme of work to be driven forward at national and European level. It includes measures with the potential to make a real difference in the immediate future, boosting the European Investment Bank's capacity to lend and it also contains steps that will support growth and job creation in the medium to long term, including deepening the Single Market, especially in the digital area. Making real headway on this will be a priority for us during our Presidency next year.

We adopted a euro summit statement which committed us to severing the toxic link between banking and sovereign debt. We had long argued to colleagues that this was an indispensable step. We now need to see it implemented urgently. A first priority is putting the arrangements in place to allow the European Stability Mechanism to have the capacity to recapitalise banks directly, taking the strain and the pressure off sovereigns as a consequence. For this to happen, we need to see a single supervisory mechanism for banks put in place. The Commission made a legislative proposal in this regard some weeks ago and it is very important that we meet the target we have set ourselves of seeing it established by the end of this year, although, clearly, this is a ambitious timetable. Of course, the June agreement also contained a commitment to Ireland to work with us to make our banking-related debt more sustainable. We are in intensive discussions with our European partners and with the troika to ensure that this commitment is delivered upon and that we can secure the best possible deal. Finally, in June we set a process in train that will lead to a deeper and more stable Economic and Monetary Union. The President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, is currently consulting colleagues on the steps that need to be taken and he will report back to us when we meet later this month before finalising his work by the end of the year.

The recent announcement by the European Central Bank that, in the right conditions, it will step in to buy the bonds of member states that are in difficulty in the markets has had a positive impact, lowering yields and providing some breathing space. We cannot afford to let this opportunity pass. European leaders have made commitments; they have said what they are going to do. There is a legitimate expectation among our people and in the markets that we will now deliver. I will continue to press the case for urgency whenever I meet colleagues, whether one-to-one or in more formal meetings. Ireland wants a prosperous and secure Union and a strong and stable currency. That is in Ireland's interests. It is in Europe's interests. The Government and I will work hard to contribute as much as we can towards achieving those ends when we assume the Presidency in January.

One of the Union's strengths should be its ability to take a longer-term view, without the day-to-day developments of the economic crisis distracting us from the importance of the Union's long-term planning. Member states are now negotiating the multi-annual financial framework, the MFF, for the EU's budget between 2014 and 2020, setting the parameters of the Union's spending to the end of this decade. President Van Rompuy intends that we should reach an agreement at a special meeting of the European Council on 22 and 23 November. Negotiations are complex, as befits the importance of the issue, but I am confident that we can reach agreement in November. We will strive for a budget with the right mix of priorities and a fair allocation of resources.

The European Parliament has an absolutely key role. First, the assent of the parliament is needed to the overall deal and people should never forget that. The parliament has also fed in its views to the discussions within the Council and between the institutions and has been keenly involved as the process has developed. Second, there is a large package of sectoral legislation underpinning the MFF. This will need to be agreed with the parliament under co-decision. Much of the management of this legislation, as far as the Council is concerned, will fall to the Irish Presidency in the first half of 2013, so we look forward to working closely and in a spirit of co-operation with the parliament on this. I understand 70 items of legislation are required to be dealt with.

Agreement on the European budget is a crucial factor in delivering the targets set in the Europe 2020 strategy in the areas of employment, research and development, energy and climate change, education and social inclusion. The strategy contains the goals that the EU and member states should reach by the end of this decade.

In 2010 the European semester process was launched to help Governments overview the immediate tasks ahead and to evaluate the results of our policies aimed at reaching the Europe 2020 goals and objectives. As the Union's annual cycle of economic and fiscal policy co-ordination, the semester is clearly growing in importance. Our key focus is on the development and implementation of jointly agreed priorities. Effective management of the third European semester will be an important element of next year's Irish Presidency. We look forward to working closely with the Cypriot Presidency on settling the roadmap for the third semester cycle.

The economic crisis presented not only an economic and financial challenge but also a political one, the so-called democratic deficit of the European integration process. As a consequence of the economic crisis, governments have changed in several member states. Anti-European voices and parties have also gained strength. Too often, the language in which Europe is spoken of every day centres on words such as "troika", "bailout" and "crisis". Our Union, a coming together of countries to pursue shared goals on behalf of our citizens, risks being seen as an external entity imposing harsh measures.

We have a duty to work to ensure this does not come to pass. I acknowledge and salute the outstanding and consistent efforts of President Schulz in this regard. Fortunately, we can count on some positive examples that showcase the understanding of the benefits and added value of European co-operation, particularly at a time of crisis. The recent referendum on the stability treaty in Ireland illustrated that people can engage in the complexities of EU business and are well able to come to balanced and clear views on proposals, none of which can ever be entirely in line with the wishes of one or other member state. The Lisbon treaty made an important contribution to strengthening the democratic accountability of the European institutions through the strengthening of the European Parliament but, allowing for those positives, we are all aware of the risk that too many members of the public feel remote from the decisions and decision makers that affect their lives.

The year 2013 will mark the European year of citizens and the Irish Presidency will use the opportunity to try to engage in wider discussion on the democratic accountability of the EU and how to bring the EU closer to its citizens. Many Members of the European Parliament are engaged in similar efforts. I have listed a number of tasks that lie ahead that need the co-operation of the Irish Presidency and the European Parliament. I will have the honour of addressing the European Parliament in January when I will set out the Presidency programme to the Members. President Schulz, on behalf of the Government and the Dáil, I look forward to our co-operation next year. You have my assurance of the Irish Government's determination to work closely and collaboratively with the Parliament.

It gives me great pleasure to call on the President of the European Parliament, Mr. Martin Schulz, to deliver his address.

H.E. President of the European Parliament Mr. Martin Schulz

A Cheann Comhairle, Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Ministers and Members of the Dáil, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour and privilege to be in the Parliament, the proud assembly of a hopeful and positive nation. Let me thank you, personally and on behalf of my institution, for this wonderful opportunity. It is an exceptional honour.

Your nation's tumultuous history, marked by many highs and lows, is the embodiment of the European experience. In the past, Ireland lived through bloody wars, saw its country invaded and its people oppressed. Ireland lived through poverty and hunger, saw its people die from starvation and others forced to emigrate. Ireland saw its national pride trampled upon; saw the Irish language forbidden and its Parliament shut down. Ireland has lived through so much of the European experience, the same suffering that motivated the founders of the European project to say that there would be no more of this and that we will start a quiet revolution. This quiet revolution has changed our world forever because the founders of our Union decided that they would not erect walls but open borders. They decided they would not crush their arch-enemy but help him to his feet and they decided they would not protect their national economies but link them closely together.

The founders of our Union decided to face the future together because they understood that together we are stronger. Indeed, together we grew stronger. We have built a project unique in human history and a tremendous success story in which enemies became friends, a region plagued by shortages developed the richest internal market in the world, and nations threw off the yoke of dictatorship and became democracies. As a German Member of the European Parliament and as a German President of the multinational assembly of parliamentarians, so we, the Germans, after all the atrocities that happened in the name of our nation, could get back to the family of democratic nations. We established the most progressive social model in the world. Yes, the European project has brought Ireland and Europe good times.

Joining the European Union nearly 40 years ago boosted the Irish economy though direct aid and increasing foreign investment. Today, 60% of Ireland's exports go to the EU. The country that had, throughout history, seen its young people depart to faraway lands became a magnet for young, well-educated Europeans. It was named the best place in the world to live in 2005. No wonder the Irish are great Europeans and the Irish people have always had a strong European commitment but it is easy to be pro-European when times are good. Being an EU member is like being in a marriage - true commitment is proven when times get tough. In Ireland times are rough, without any doubt. Still, the Irish people remain pro-European and continue to see the value of common European decision making in both the collective European and national self-interest.

Ireland has tackled its financial difficulties with determination and purpose and is putting its own house in order. Ireland is taking the very hard decisions needed to get the economy and the country back on track. Ireland has implemented tough reform programmes and cut the budget dramatically. Ireland has not only accomplished, but over-accomplished the targets the so-called troika set for Ireland. Ratification of the fiscal stability treaty by the Irish people has been another key step in this direction.

It is my personal conviction that in this Union everybody has to live up to their commitments and be responsible for keeping their own house in order. This is one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is solidarity. If one family member gets into troubled waters, the others are called upon to offer a helping hand.

Thus, personally, I believe that the Irish programme should be adjusted before the end of the year along the lines of the June European Council conclusions.


Hear, hear.

Mr. Martin Schulz

The biggest risk for Europe is the lack of mutual trust. How can we regain the confidence of our citizens if the highest European body, the European Council, which consists of Heads of State and Government, is not reliable? We will never regain the trust of our citizens if we do not stick to our promises.


Hear, hear.

Mr. Martin Schulz

After all, Ireland got into trouble because it took over the debt of its banking system, a banking system which allowed some banks to engage in unethical financial transactions based on greed combined with irresponsible lending practices.


Hear, hear.

Mr. Martin Schulz

Irish taxpayers are now paying the bankers' bills to stop a domino effect that could have dragged the whole European banking system down. Therefore, solidarity with Ireland is to give something back. You took the burden on your shoulders to avoid the crash of the systems of other countries, including my country. Therefore, I find the 27% German participation in the package for Ireland is to give solidarity back to the country that showed solidarity with us.

The economic crisis has come at a tremendous human cost. Hundreds of thousands have become unemployed, poverty is growing, many families had to leave their homes because they could no longer pay their mortgages and emigration numbers are on the rise again. When young people leave, it is a loss for both family and country. Still, despite all the hard work, despite the over-accomplishing of set targets, despite the huge sacrifices made by the people, Ireland has still to get back on its feet completely. To me, this shows that the recipe is not fully working. Yes, sustainable budgets are important, but with cuts alone no economy can recover.


Hear, hear.

Mr. Martin Schulz

There is more to be done. The first lesson from the crisis is that we need a robust supervisory system for banks to ensure that what happened in Ireland and elsewhere will never happen again. After all, it was the banks which gambled and lost on property loans. It was the banks which had to be bailed out by the taxpayer. Two years ago, the EU established European supervisory authorities. The European Parliament had pushed for more integrated and intrusive supervision of banks, insurance and financial markets. The member states first refused our requests, only to come back to our ideas this year in June. Two years were lost in the process. Now, the project is back on the table. That is good news. Work is ongoing and member states seem to already disagree. We parliamentarians will do our utmost to set up a solid, transparent pan-European supervision of banks because we believe this is in the interest of our citizens, but we will not do it at any costs. We want a supervision of banks that works and can, at a later stage, be extended to insurance, pension funds and financial markets and also be extended from the eurozone to all EU countries.

Ordinary hard-working people cannot be asked to shoulder the follow-up costs of this crisis alone. The European Parliament with an overwhelming majority believes that the financial markets have to deliver now and they have to contribute to the follow-up costs of the crisis with a financial transaction tax. In the view of the European Parliament, it is simply a matter of moral decency and social justice. I know the reluctance of Ireland, but those who wish to have a financial transaction tax should not be prevented from implementing it on the basis of enhanced co-operation.

The second lesson from the crisis is that credit-fuelled booms are simply not sustainable. Financial crises, time and again, show similar characteristics: cheap money, excessive debt, speculative bubbles with overvalued assets and so-called innovative products on the financial markets. In my eyes this is fantasy football. One of the them, credit-default swaps, was referred to by Warren Buffet as a "weapon of mass destruction", leading to irrational exuberance that tips over into panic when the first mortgage payments are not met. Time and again we are told that this crisis was an accident and completely unpredictable. Yet, they keep happening, and at regular intervals.

To protect ourselves from the next crisis, the European Parliament believes that we have to get tough financial market regulation with transparency as its core principle into place, decrease macro-economic imbalances and return to growth based on the real economies. Ireland is well-placed. Ireland's growth in recent years has been based on the high-skill, high-technology sector. Renewed growth will come from jobs in industries of the future. With its well-educated workforce and functioning administration and its intact business and social model, I am convinced that Ireland will succeed in the long term.

The third lesson from the crisis is that we need a growth pact to boost the economy and create jobs, in Ireland and in Europe. The European Parliament believes that a more balanced approach is needed - "Yes" to sustainable budgets but also "Yes" to growth initiatives. The European Council is called upon not only to talk the talk, but to walk the walk. It promised a growth initiative. It now has to deliver a growth initiative. That is also a question of credibility. Fiscal stability is necessary, but it needs to be backed up by other measures as well.

It is the conviction of the European Parliament that the EU budget supports growth and that it is an investment vehicle. Calls for cuts in the EU budget may be popular. They sound wonderful but they are irresponsible. The EU budget is not money for Brussels. The EU budget is money for the people of Europe. It is a means of boosting the economy, one we need more than ever at a time of crisis, to create growth and jobs. In areas like research and development, it provides Europe-wide scale from which individual EU countries like Ireland all benefit.

Ireland is living proof that the EU budget is a tool to make the lives of people better. Over the last years Ireland received €30 billion net from the EU. Ireland used this money wisely, maximizing the impact of receipts from the Structural Funds to accelerate development and modernisation. Success stories like Ireland will no longer happen if the EU budget is slashed. Vital areas for Ireland, like agriculture, would also suffer. That is why in the negotiations with the Heads of Government the European Parliament is fighting for a proper budget, for the people of Europe.

The Taoiseach mentioned the role of the Parliament. We will meet more often in the next weeks. I am fighting for an ambitious budget. Not far from here, in the capital of another island member of the European Union, people are thinking of cutting the European budget in a way I will never accept.

The overwhelming majority of my colleagues will not accept it either. We will meet more often. The Members can count on me, but the Taoiseach should know that I count on him as well.

The people of Europe need to see light at the end of the tunnel. Unemployment, and especially youth unemployment on the scale we witness today in some parts of Europe, threatens to destroy the social fabric of our societies. It leads to frustration and anger, resignation and alienation. It undermines the legitimacy of our democratic institutions. I will quote an eminent historian and great man, Tony Judt, whose father as a boy had emigrated to Ireland from Belgium: "The last time a cohort of young people expressed comparable frustration at the emptiness of their lives and the dispiriting purposelessness of their world was in the 1920s; it is not by chance that historians speak of a 'lost generation'." Today, we are faced with what could potentially become another lost generation. Young people, as witnessed most recently in Spain or Greece, are taking to the streets because they feel abandoned and outraged. Their helplessness and despair in the face of seemingly all-powerful financial markets coupled with alienation from the political institutions is the biggest threat to democracy.

Democracy lives when people know that they can take decisions about their lives and that, by getting involved, they can change society for the better. We elected politicians are called upon to win back their trust. Therefore, I welcome the announcement of the incoming Irish Presidency that it will make the European youth guarantee a priority of its work. The European Parliament believes that the youth guarantee is an important initiative that will prevent young people from paying for this crisis with their life chances. I will describe a personal experience I had in Madrid two months ago. I met 30 young men and women aged between 18 and 30 years old. All were unemployed and some of them had three academic degrees. A young woman aged 26 who had qualified as both an architect and psychologist put a question to me. Before that I asked her about the combination of architecture and psychology. She said that architects know nothing about psychology, so they build houses in which nobody can live. When I asked about the psychology, she said psychologists know nothing about technology even though we are living in a technological 21st century. Her two answers were already a reason to employ the young woman.

The young woman told me that she intended to leave Spain, adding: "There is no place for me here." She said she would go to a Latin American country. However, the ambassador of this Latin American country had told me some days beforehand, when I met with the Latin American ambassadors, that his country would close its borders to Europeans in the foreseeable future. This is the reality of Europe in the 21st century. The young woman asked me a question which I wish to repeat in this Parliament, as a representative of parliaments in all the member states of the European Union. She said: "The EU has about €700 billion for the banking system. How many euro are there for me and my generation?" If we do not find an answer to that question and organise Europe in a more fair and just way, with a more fair and just distribution of the riches of our Continent, and give a chance to our young generation, we will lose the fight for democracy in Europe. That is sure. Therefore, the youth initiative could be a cornerstone of change in the first half of next year.

The members of the European Parliament very much look forward to Ireland's seventh Presidency of the EU Council. Since joining the EU, Ireland has made enormous contributions to European integration. Judging from very good past experiences with Irish Presidencies, I know this Presidency will be exceptional.

I wish to say something about a trend that is worrying me deeply. Times such as these, times of crises, are always times of the executive. The pressure of events calls for swift action and leaves parliaments, both national parliaments and the European Parliament, ever more marginalised. Parliaments are increasingly seen as an annoying waste of time. They are not. Parliaments are the guarantors of democracy. However, decisions on European policies which affect us all are increasingly taken in a way which reminds me of the Congress of Vienna in the 19th century, when Europe's leaders were ruthless in their defence of national interests, international politics were seen as a zero sum game and the stronger imposed their will on the weaker. The big member states, or those which consider themselves to be big member states, should not, in the European context, be able to give lessons to the smaller countries.

Post-war Europe is founded on the sober acknowledgement of the fact that our interests can no longer be separated from those of our neighbours. Either we all lose or we all win. The fundamental basis for this is what we call the community method. The community method means resolving disputes by means of dialogue and consensus, basing decisions on the principles of solidarity and democracy, reconciling the interests of the smaller and larger member states, northern and southern Europe, eastern and western Europe; and placing the common good above individual interests. Over the last two years, the community method which has served us well for many years has been undermined. The European Parliament and I as its President will defend the community method, which to us is the soul of the European project.

This crisis has driven home the lesson that our economies and our lives have become deeply linked and interdependent. One country's economic problems can undermine the European economy, but many countries working together can solve the problem. Either we all sail together or we all sink separately. Solidarity is in the best interest of all. From the crisis we have learned that we need more European economic co-operation, but this must never come at the expense of democracy and the community method. If we want to continue with deepening European integration and keep our democratic societies, we must strengthen the ties between the European and national parliaments. This is especially true if we talk about budget issues like the European semester, where together we must ward off attempts by the executive to curtail the key prerogative of parliaments, which is the right to adopt a budget. This is why I have made co-operation with national parliaments a priority of my time in office.

I intend to strengthen economic dialogue and introduce a "parliamentary week", during which national and European parliamentarians would together take a close look at the annual growth report and the guidelines for national budgets. I look forward to working together with this Parliament in this and in many other ways.

This is not written in my speech and I am known for adding to written speeches sometimes. Many colleagues in national parliaments and in the European Parliament do not know what the European semester is. It has nothing to do with academic education. In the future Ministers for Finance must, under the framework for the European semester, submit their draft budgets to Brussels before the national parliaments adopt it. In Brussels, civil servants from the Commission will look at the draft budgets of the Irish, the Germans, the Italians, of all members states of the European Union, and they will analyse it on the basis of the so-called "annual growth survey", which is not a criterion adopted by the European Parliament. That means concretely that the Irish draft budget will be evaluated by civil servants of the Commission on the basis of criteria they have themselves developed. This is deparliamentarisation and therefore we are not adversaries, the national parliamentarians and the European Parliament. We must build a complementary framework between national parliaments and the European Parliament to make the European semester democratic. Therefore, this parliamentarian week is an important step for more democracy in Europe.

Almost 40 years since Ireland joined the EU, Ireland has been transformed from a country primarily trading with the United Kingdom only to an export-led high technology economy deeply rooted within the solid foundations of the European Union. We in the European Parliament look forward to working closely with Ireland as it takes on the Presidency of the Council at a crucial time. No doubt, the last few years have been very hard and mistakes have been made but I believe in their hearts and minds, Irish people are true Europeans. Europe is on Ireland's side and Ireland can be proud of its true European vocation. Europe is not a thing we can play with. Europe is an idea, a fascinating one. It is an idea of solidarity, mutual trust and respect and capacity. In our work together in common institutions between bigger and smaller member states to find always a fair deal, saving face for everyone by way of compromise becomes a common decision in the end. That is what we need, the combined power for 27, soon to be 28 nations that are prepared to work across the borders between nations to face the challenges of the 21st century. No country, neither Germany nor Ireland, can manage alone.

It gives me great pleasure to call the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Eamon Gilmore.

I thank President Martin Schulz for his address and for the support he has expressed for our national effort, his words of encouragement and his inspiring thoughts. His presence in the Chamber on his first visit to Ireland since taking office as President of the European Parliament and the exchange of views we are having this morning demonstrate the vital and complementary role national parliaments and the European Parliament play in providing democratic oversight and accountability within the European Union. This role has never been more important as the European Union takes further steps towards closer integration in response to the crisis that we collectively face.

It is a particular honour for me too to welcome a President of the European Parliament from the same broad political family and tradition, a tradition that has made an immense contribution to the development of the Union over decades. President Schulz has spoken of ensuring that solidarity and democracy take precedence over the rights of the more powerful, of reconciling the interests of the smaller and larger states, of north and south, of east and west, putting the welfare of everyone above the vested interests of the few. In doing so, he has spoken of an approach that needs to be re-asserted at the heart of our Europe.

In less than 100 days Ireland takes over the Presidency of the Council of European Union for the seventh time. As in the past, our focus will be on managing the business of the Council in an efficient, responsible and impartial manner and on representing fairly and openly the positions arrived at in Council. Given the scale of the challenges facing Europe today, we recognise the seriousness of the task and the Government is approaching it with determination. We also see the importance of demonstrating that each member state, whether large or small, can effectively discharge its responsibilities as Presidency and that we can prove the continuing value and relevance of the Community method of decision-making which has served us so well in the past.

Since our last Presidency in 2004, the European Union has undergone profound change. Most obviously, the Union has grown from 15 to 27 member states, soon to be 28, and operates in a wider and more complex environment. With the introduction of the Lisbon treaty reforms, the legislative and budgetary responsibilities of the European Parliament have been significantly enhanced and it is clear that the Presidency now plays a particular role in managing the relationship between the Council and the European Parliament. During our Presidency, we will be looking to President Schulz for his guidance, goodwill and support as we work together on what promises to be a busy legislative programme. On our part, I can promise you that we will approach our relations with the Parliament in an open, constructive and cooperative spirit. Now more than ever, we need to show to our citizens that the European institutions can respond rapidly and effectively to their needs. Failure to do so will undermine the very foundations of the European Union and the unique model of co-operation we have developed over the past 50 years.

We are taking on the Presidency of the European Council at a critical time. As the President said, more needs to be done than just budgetary discipline to get our country and our continent out of the economic difficulties we currently face. That is why the decisions made on 29 June, particularly decisions relating to the separation of bank and sovereign debt and decisions on the compact for jobs and growth are so critically important. In deciding the priorities of our Presidency, our emphasis will be on those proposals that promote growth and employment in a community based on a spirit of solidarity. We must provide jobs to those who are currently unemployed and those who will soon commence the search for employment.

The youth transitions package, which we expect to see published by the Commission in December, will offer an opportunity for Europe to focus in a practical way on an item that is sadly a feature at the top of both the Council’s and the Parliament’s agenda. I am speaking of course of youth unemployment. We must equip our young people with the skills they need to take up the jobs of the future and to manage the transition into the workplace. There is hardly an issue that can be more important for Europe, its institutions and member states, than to try to help our young people realise their potential, and collectively to push back against the wasted capacity that unemployment, including youth unemployment, represents.

This is the reason I would tell the young woman the President met, who had qualified as both an architect and a psychologist and who, like so many more young people is fearful and doubtful about her future that from 1 January next year, the priority of this country, which has experienced the consequences of what happened as a result of the economic crash, which also has so many young people who are not reaching their potential and who are worried about their future, will be to ensure that youth unemployment is at the top of the European agenda. The President may be assured that Ireland's Presidency of the European Union next year will not be an exercise in technocratic management. Its purpose will be to provide leadership within the European Union on the issues that matter to our people and in particular the issue of youth unemployment addressed so eloquently by the President here this morning.

There is a range of measures under the Europe 2020 strategy that Ireland will seek to advance. We will work to strengthen the Single Market and to remove the barriers which hinder its huge potential for growth and jobs. We will promote the digital agenda and attach particular importance to the development of Horizon 2020, the European Union's next framework programme for research and innovation. Only by becoming a leader in research and innovation can we hope to compete in a highly competitive global environment and to create smart and sustainable employment. An area in which Ireland sees potential for a greater contribution to growth and to jobs and which we think will feature significantly during our Presidency, is the European Union's external trade agenda, including the key European Union-United States trade relationship. Next April, Ireland will host a meeting of trade ministers in Dublin to consider this relationship and how to strengthen and deepen it.

Ireland's Presidency will unfold against the continuing backdrop of the worst financial and economic crisis the Union has faced since its foundation. Ireland will work assiduously to advance the proposals now being elaborated to deepen economic and monetary union, convinced it is only by closer co-operation and mutual solidarity that we can overcome the problems we face. Ireland will seek to ensure that the range of measures for improved economic governance that already have been adopted are implemented fully. In so doing, it is worth reminding ourselves what is at stake. This is not being done to please ratings agencies or market managers but to restore macroeconomic stability to our economies, to rebuild our competitiveness and to create the conditions for sustainable growth, high employment and shared prosperity. To achieve our goals, the European Union needs a budget that is adequate to the task. Ireland is supportive of the proposal that has been put forward by the Commission. We note there is a wide variety of views, including of course those of the European Parliament. Ireland remains confident that agreement can be reached on the multi-annual financial framework during the Cyprus Presidency and we look forward to that agreement being reached at the November European Council. Ireland is ready to take forward the range of necessary legislative proposals to cover the 2014 to 2020 budgetary period. This has implications for all areas of European Union activity, including the vital areas of the Common Agricultural Policy and cohesion policy. Again, we recognise and respect the role the European Parliament has in this process and we will work together with the Parliament to ensure outcomes that are of real benefit to the people of Europe.

The President has spoken eloquently, both today and on many occasions, of the European Union as a community of solidarity and of the need in the current crisis for courage and imagination. Here in Ireland he will find many people who share his vision and who will work with him for a better Europe. I look forward to his return to Ireland in November, when we will discuss in more detail the priorities for our Presidency and how we can work with him and with the European Parliament to realise them.

I call the leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Micheál Martin.

Cuirim fáilte faoi leith roimh Uachtarán Pharlaimint na hEorpa chuig ár bParlaimint. Déanaim comhghairdeas leis, as ucht an méid atá bainte amach aige i rith a shaoil agus go háirithe, i gcomhthéacs obair Pharlaimint na hEorpa. I wish to join with colleagues in welcoming the President to Dáil Éireann. It is a very fitting time for his visit, both because of the growing importance of the Parliament itself, which he leads, and the unprecedented crisis now faced by member states across Europe, by the institutions of the European Union and above all, by the citizens of the European Union. In the President's political career, he has built a well-earned reputation as a person of passionate beliefs who also seeks and encourages candid debate. The UCD student debate in which he participated last night with Members of this House, including my colleague, Deputy Dooley, was a very good example of this. I note the President later promoted him in jest to leadership of the party, such was the power of his performance.

Well done Timmy.

It also was a good example of the passion, candour and frankness of the President's approach. The seriousness of the issues facing Europe at present is such that I am glad we have not allowed today's session merely to be an exchange of formalities. In recent years, perhaps there has been too much formality, too much of going through the motions and nowhere near enough leadership or urgency. The President's address to this Parliament today was devoid of such an approach and rather, he spoke candidly, honestly and openly about many of the issues that face us collectively across Europe. Europe must face up to hard truths about what has gone wrong and what is required to return to growth and job creation. The price of failing to do this already is being felt by millions through the Union and could affect many millions more, as the President noted.

Were the President to look back through the history of Ireland’s engagement with the European Union, he would find we always have been suspicious of the European Parliament. In treaty negotiations, we always have favoured retaining as much power as possible in the Council. This has been because of a fear that the Parliament is less open to being influenced by smaller nations and groups. Even with the introduction of majority voting, Ireland's ability to be heard and to have an impact in the Council is undeniably higher than it is in the Parliament. It is important to note that many steps have been and are taken in the Parliament to address this concern, especially with the groups helping the smaller delegations to be heard. Our MEPs retain a strong direct link with the people and as a result the Parliament retains a higher status here than in some other member states. Arguments about the appropriate balance between the powers of the Parliament and the Council have been at the centre of nearly three decades of debate. Recent treaties have further increased the powers of the Parliament and the balance appears to be working. However, the undeniable fact is that most of the time spent on arguments about the balance between institutions of the Union has been wasted. It has been a major and ongoing distraction from addressing core flaws in the powers and policies of the Union which lie at the heart of today’s crisis. These are flaws which still threaten the very foundations of the euro and possibly the Union itself.

I speak as the leader of a party which has always been unequivocal in its support of the great idea that only by working together can European states prosper. As far back the 1930s, one of my predecessors, Sean Lemass, referred to this being essential in tackling Europe’s then crisis. He subsequently lodged Ireland's application for membership, a decision which was vindicated in the growth and rising living standards which membership of the Union enabled. In the President's address, he articulated very well that progress and sense of opening up that occurred in Ireland as a result of its joining the Union itself. Earlier this year, my party took the principled stand of putting aside partisan considerations by campaigning for ratification of the fiscal treaty. However, what we are not is uncritical. My party does not accept the idea that the job of pro-Europeans is to stay quiet and cheer from the sidelines no matter what is happening and what is happening today is that Europe’s leaders are making this crisis much worse by their refusal to take action which is sufficiently ambitious, courageous or comprehensive. From the very outset of this crisis, there has been a search to do the minimum possible to muddle through the crisis. Only at moments where collapse has looked possible have essential decisions been taken. A vicious cycle in which problems are only addressed when a collapse seems imminent, the solutions are oversold, complacency sets in and deals are allowed to unravel, has not yet been broken. One of the most serious impacts of this failure of leadership has been a dramatic decline in public satisfaction with the Union and belief in its core purpose.

For the first time in the Union's history a majority of its citizens believe it is heading in the wrong direction and are concerned about its future. At the same time Europe's traditional enemies from both the right and the left have been emboldened. While ignoring their own histories of opposing everything that delivered jobs, rising living standards and peace to Europe, they are pushing their anti-EU agenda with a new force. As we saw during our referendum campaign, they have many forms of attack but their proposals fall apart under basic scrutiny. However, no one should underestimate the damage they can do as they put their cynical and populist search for votes ahead of offering credible alternatives. There is no way that this situation can improve unless the leaders of Europe acknowledge that their behaviour last year, their failure to show all members respect, their exclusionary negotiations and their timid agenda combined to cause enormous damage.

The effort last week of three governments to impose their will concerning June's banking deal was partly caused by the failure of other countries to be more active, but it was nonetheless unacceptable and directly contrary to spirit of solidarity without which the Union cannot work. The attitude to what is now termed the legacy debt of the crisis betrays a continued refusal to accept what has happened. In Ireland's case, a significant amount of the bank-related debt we took on was directly driven by the fears of the ECB and others of contagion in the financial system. We showed our solidarity at that time and to brush this off as a purely national matter is a disgrace.

It is also now widely acknowledged that the lack of measures then - which are in place today - explains why Ireland needed a support programme in 2010. The different funds which have been put in place as well as the ECB's new OMT facility have completely changed the dynamic of the crisis. Had the proposal of Guy Verhofstadt, MEP, the leader of our group in the European Parliament, for euro bonds been accepted two years ago, we would now be looking back on the euro crisis rather than fearing where it will go to next.

A number of specific policies are desperately needed of which the banking union is now the most important. Without it confidence in the European financial system will never be fully restored and therefore growth will be undermined. National regulation within a multinational currency has failed, as the President of the European Parliament so eloquently detailed in his contribution, and must be replaced. Equally, a common approach to bank resolution and deposit insurance is unavoidable.

The effort by some countries to impose common rules but reject any possible transfers reflects a continued adherence to a model so flawed that even its principal architect Jacques Delors has criticised it. The European Central Bank must be allowed to push ahead with a bond purchase programme which is unlikely to be needed if it is allowed to be established. There is no way of avoiding the need to give confidence to investors that there is a lender of last resort. Should some of the compatriots of the President of the European Parliament succeed in their campaign to stop Mario Draghi it will be a dark day for the people of Europe.

The Union's budget will shortly be debated and the usual arguments about diverting money from existing programmes will be had. Quite simply, Europe has set itself objectives which cannot be met without a significant increase in the budget. It has no real capacity to turn around regions with mass unemployment. It cannot alleviate the austerity which is inevitable in some countries but avoidable on a pan-European basis. The President of the European Parliament rightly raised the youth guarantee and the issue of youth unemployment. The litmus test for that will be the EU budget. Rhetoric on its own, agreements and memoranda of understanding will not solve that. The litmus test for our sincerity and the sense of urgency we attach to the issue of youth unemployment will be really tested in the context of the European budget and it is a key moment in the evolution of this crisis.

Unfortunately the current debate appears to be all about undermining the one area where the Union has a comprehensive and progressive support policy. The days of food mountains and wine lakes are gone. European funding is now enabling permanent food security, rising food quality and the protection of a rural environment which would otherwise be under great pressure. Ireland's rural communities are innovative and forward looking, but what they and similar communities throughout Europe receive from these programmes is essential and must be protected. This is a moment when citizens need the Parliament to act as a counterbalance to the ongoing failures of the leaders who meet in the Council. Citizens need the Parliament to take up these issues with the energy so lacking from the Heads of State and Government. Citizens need the Parliament to be a voice for a budget that protects programmes which are working and funds direct support for countries and regions which are bearing the biggest brunt of the crisis. Citizens need the Parliament to be true to the Union's founding ideals of solidarity and generosity between states and to push others to be true to them as well. The crisis that caused a generation of visionary leaders to found what is today the European Union was a dark one hopefully never to be seen again. I look forward to our continued relationship with Mr. Shultz's Presidency.

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an Uachtarán Schulz. Tá súil agam go raibh seans aige taitneamh a bhaint as ár bhflaithiúlacht Éireannach agus go mbeidh turas maith aige anseo. Ba mhaith liom "go raibh míle maith agat" a rá leis as ucht na focail an-soiléir a dúirt sé. I welcome Mr. Shultz, MEP, the President of the European Parliament, and thank him for his remarks. I will deal, first, with the immediate financial crisis facing the State and Europe and will then make some comments on the future direction of the European project.

For the past five years states across the European Union and European institutions have been grappling with fiscal and banking crises. A succession of summits has failed to deliver any concrete solution. The previous Government informed us that the State was coerced into a European bailout by the European Central Bank and other European leaders in 2010. It claimed that EU institutions insisted that the Irish taxpayers should carry the burden for the bad banking debts of private institutions and the banks.

In June this Government returned from the European Council summit claiming it had secured agreement that this bad banking debt would be lifted from the shoulders of Irish citizens. The Taoiseach called it a "seismic shift" and the Tánaiste described it as a "game changer". However, last week's statement by the so-called "Helsinki three", the finance Ministers of Germany, Finland and the Netherlands, that the ESM bailout fund would only deal with future banking liabilities, sharply contradicts these assertions. This situation was made worse by the European Commission President's, José Manuel Barossa's, very clear refusal yesterday to back the Government's interpretation that the June agreement would deal with legacy debts in the banking system.

I welcome remarks of the President of the European Parliament on this issue today, though I note he couched them as his personal opinions. I especially welcome his eloquent comments on the need for solidarity. He said that the bigger member states should not give lessons to the smaller ones and I agree. However, he will know that thus far, as far as the leaders of the bigger European states are concerned, smaller states such as this one can be treated with disdain and left to carry the burden of debts that are not ours.

Unlike the Government, Sinn Féin from the very start of this crisis has been advocating a write-down of private bank debt. Bank debt needs to be separated from sovereign debt. The burden of bad banking debt, the so-called legacy issue, which was foisted on the shoulders of the Irish people, also needs to be removed.

At the conclusion to recent EU summits there has been much talk about a renewed focus on jobs and growth rather than austerity, but people need to see delivery on these promises. European leaders are failing to tackle the jobs crisis. Some 24 million citizens are unemployed across the EU and in this State 440,000 people are on the live register. The scourge of emigration is once more a factor for families and communities, particularly in rural areas. The eurozone countries urgently need investment in jobs, particularly in the peripheral states.

This can be achieved by among other measures an enlarged investment fund in the European Investment Bank. However, the passing of the recent fiscal austerity treaty is undoubtedly bad for jobs and for growth, and will hamper prospects for economic recovery. Research published last week by the Central Bank of Ireland indicates that the State will need to run austerity budgets until 2020 to meet the targets set down in the treaty.

The continuation of this type of austerity, coupled with the austerity policies in other EU states, will serve to hamper the prospects of a strong recovery across the Union.

Sinn Féin believes that a radical change in direction is required and that the EU has its priorities seriously wrong. We agree with many of President Schulz's comments. However, the EU can find €100 billion for bad Spanish banks but only a pittance to tackle youth unemployment. President Schulz has identified youth unemployment as the most serious problem facing the people of the European Union. We welcome that statement, which is true. I appeal to the President to go beyond fine words and to give real hope to a generation of young people without work.

The European Union and member states need to focus on stimulating Europe's economies and to encourage growth through stimulus packages. There is no stimulus in any of what the Irish Government is doing. We need to get people back to work. More important, we need to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens by protecting public services rather than destroying them.

Sinn Féin has long argued that the role of the ECB needs to be re-examined and that it needs to fulfil the role of a lender of last resort. In recent months, the focus of attention of the larger states such as Germany, the President of the Commission, Mr. Barroso, and Mr. Schulz, as President of the EU Parliament, have moved increasingly towards a political and fiscal union. Sinn Féin does not believe that fiscal federalism will stabilise the euro. The current policy of austerity and bank bailouts has led to greater instability in the eurozone. The one-size-fits-all monetary policy was part of the problem. A one-size-fits-all fiscal policy will only make matters worse. Sinn Féin is firmly of the view that what is now required is a different approach based on investment in jobs and economic growth.

In his state of the Union address to the European Parliament several weeks ago, Mr. Barroso confirmed that a federal Europe is the ultimate goal of the EU Commission. Sinn Féin has consistently raised the concern in previous referendum campaigns that Irish sovereignty is being undermined and that we are being pushed towards a federal Europe. The democratic deficit was mentioned. The people of this island have never been consulted on that issue. I welcome President Schulz's comments on the need for greater democratisation of EU institutions but there needs to be a recognition in Brussels that there is no mandate or popular will in this State for a European super state or United States of Europe - on the contrary.

President Schulz recognised in his speech today that communities and citizens across the EU, in particular young people, are struggling with sky high levels of unemployment, emigration and under-employment. They are victims of an economic mess caused by the type of austerity policies to which the Commission is wedded. What citizens in Ireland and across the European Union want is practical leadership. President Schulz spoke eloquently about the need for solidarity and about trust being required. However, until there is evidence that the European institutions and the Governments are focussed on creating jobs, protecting public services and sheltering the most vulnerable from the outcomes of austerity, we will see a continued alienation of people from these institutions. A social European Union is required, a European Union of equals, one which protects our citizens, rural communities, young people and most especially those who are marginalised and vulnerable. Mar a dúirt mé, cead míle fáilte, one hundred thousand welcomes. I thank President Schulz for his attendance, his remarks and wish him good luck in his job.

I understand the time allocated for the Technical Group is being shared between Deputies Stephen Donnelly and Joe Higgins, with Deputy Donnelly taking six minutes and Deputy Higgins taking four.

I too welcome President Schulz to Ireland and Dáil Éireann. All of us, as European citizens, have much of which to be proud. There has been relative peace across the Continent for decades now for the first time in a long time and a growth in Europe's voice on critical issues such as inequality, social justice, climate change and so on. Unfortunately, the current economic crisis, in particular the manner in which European leaders and certain European institutions have responded to it, has fundamentally challenged the solidarity upon which Europe is built, as referred to earlier by President Schulz. The President's speech today and previous statements by him which I have read highlight the work he is doing for Europe and Ireland, for which I, as a Member of Parliament in Ireland, thank him.

I would like to use this opportunity to add the following point to the conversation on Ireland and Europe. Ireland never received a bailout and is not looking for one. However, we do need our €64 billion returned to ensure our recovery.

I often hear expressed in the so-called creditor countries the common view that Ireland mismanaged its internal affairs, made mistakes and is now looking for other people's hard earned money to correct those mistakes. A mixture of economic and moral sentiment is expressed. During a recent conversation I had with a German economist he pointed out to me that the German translation of "debt" is the same as that for "guilt", which I found interesting.

There is no doubt but that mistakes have been made in this country. We have made mistakes and are working to correct them. However, the interpretation that Ireland is looking for aid is incorrect and is damaging to the solidarity of Europe and Ireland's ability, as a modern, developed society and economy, to help Europe get out of the current crisis. The following tells an interesting story. Ireland will borrow €67 billion from the troika. To date, Ireland has poured €64 billion into failed banks, which, in my opinion, should never have been given a penny. This €64 billion is the equivalent of the German people being asked to put one trillion dollars into a failed banking system. When, during a recent interview for a documentary exploring this issue, I put this to a German journalist his response was, "There would be revolution". This is what Ireland has done thus far. It is likely we will do more. The banks have, in return, given this money to bondholders. This numbers in this regard are, again, very interesting. Some €124 billion of senior debt was held by the banks when the State guaranteed it. In Greece, there was a 50% write down for senior bondholders. President Schulz is a business man, having run a bookshop for many years. He knows that when a bankrupt company is taken over the new owner meets with the company's creditors and debts are written down. This is standard practice.

What one gets when one knits the three aforementioned figures together is interesting: €67 million is being borrowed from the troika, virtually all of which is going into the banks and almost the same amount is being given by the banks to the senior bondholders in terms of forgone losses. This is what has happened: there has been a €67 billion circle of money from the troika through Ireland to the international banks and investors. I have spoken to many people about this and have, as I am sure have President Schulz and other Members of this House, read many opinions on it. I have yet to read an opinion which says that this was morally or economically correct. Yet, it continues to happen.

On Monday, we paid another €1 billion to senior bondholders of a bank which would have gone bankrupt.

The Government is paying it but it does not want to do so. The reason it is paying it is because it is afraid of what the European Central Bank and the European Commission would do to Ireland in retaliation for not covering the losses of professional investors. I have heard Mr. Schulz agree this is not sensible. The counterargument goes that the €64 billion came in and saved the Irish banking system. As Mr. Schulz knows, half of this money went to a bank which no longer exists and which is under criminal investigation for what it was doing. The other half of the money went to banks which still exist but which are increasing charges and mortgage rates and are, in essence, sucking the rest of the money out of the Irish economy. The money from the troika achieved only one benefit, which was to avoid contagion to the European banking system.
Mr. Schulz recently stated the Irish people need to have some cause for hope for the future. This hope is not in a deal on the €64 billion or in its restructuring, it is in a return of the €64 billion. If this happens we can, as a modern, sophisticated high-tech export-oriented economy, contribute to the recovery of Europe. I thank Mr. Schulz for his support and I hope he will be able to bring this simple message back: Ireland did not get a bailout-----

-----and Ireland is not looking for aid or benevolence. We need our money back in order that we can contribute to the recovery of Europe.


Hear, hear.

There will be much pomp, ceremony and chatter to accompany the Irish Government assuming the Presidency of the European Union in 2013. However, there will be no change in the disastrous and destructive austerity policy being ruthlessly imposed on the Irish and European working class, middle and low income workers, the unemployed, pensioners, the poor and the young. As President of the European Parliament, Herr Schulz is effectively in a power-sharing arrangement between social democrat and Christian democrat political parties. Throughout Europe it is these parties, just like the Irish Government of Fine Gael and the Labour Party, which carry out the economic diktats of the financial markets which dictate policies that have left 25 million EU citizens unemployed and threaten to turn the weaker capitalist economies, the so-called peripheral states, back to Third World conditions.

We have the tragic irony that as the EU establishment boasts of being the most generous donor to the poorest countries on earth, features of this poverty, such as homelessness and even malnutrition, are reappearing in Greece, which is a member state of the European Union, as a result of austerity. These policies are being driven by the markets which dictate that the profits of speculators, bondholders and bankers take precedence over hundreds of millions of ordinary citizens. Today we have heard fine words about democracy, but we live in an economic dictatorship of the financial markets. The troika and the political parties of social democracy and Christian democracy are agents of these financiers and speculators dictating that the people of Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece and others should have transferred onto their shoulders the debts of the global bankers and have their economic lifeblood drained to rescue the diseased system that is casino capitalism.

Have the political parties in Europe noted reports in the world financial press that while 25 million languish in unemployment, European big business corporations sit on €2 trillion of retained profits which they refuse to invest to create productive employment, not being confident of sufficient profit? Have they noted a report in The Guardian on research by the Tax Justice Network which shows that €16 trillion belonging to the global elite sits in offshore accounts, channelled there by the ten biggest international banks, including the vampire squid Goldman Sachs, for the benefit of this elite only? It is beyond time that a full frontal assault was made on this nauseating inequality and that we have not a puny transaction tax but a massive supertax on this wealth in order that it is channelled into job creation, major public infrastructure programmes which would create millions of jobs, research, the transformation of services such as health and education, and ending the draconian brutality and injustice of austerity.

The injustice that saddles the Irish people with the bad gambling debts of Irish bankers and developers and bankers in France, Britain and Germany is taking billions from the pockets of ordinary people here and, in the process, is wrecking the domestic economy with catastrophic results for jobs and services. Since the EU political establishment is the agent of the markets and austerity, ordinary people can only rely on their own power, and this is what our great historic Irish socialists, James Connolly and Jim Larkin, would say, as would the great German socialists, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. The year 2013 will mark not only the Presidency by Ireland of the European Union but also the 100th anniversary of the great lockout when the Dublin working-class rose up in an historic and Herculean struggle against the employers, who were the elite of those days, to demand justice and a decent life.

When the political establishment which represents European capitalism descends on Ireland next year, as they will many times, they should be met with widespread mobilisation by the economic victims of the austerity they impose. Working class people will demand that the bailout of the bankers and speculators and crippling austerity are halted, and we will join with the millions of workers in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Germany where it is not commonly known that millions of workers languish in very low waged situations, to demand a different Europe not of the markets but of the people, a new genuinely democratic socialist Europe where we can end the obscenities of mass youth unemployment to which Mr. Schulz alluded and create a new and decent life for all European citizens.

I am pleased to join my colleagues in the Houses of Parliament to welcome Mr. Schulz. This is a great opportunity to celebrate once again our strong and deepening relationship with the European Parliament, which we consider to be vital. When the Government came into office last year, one of the first things we did was to hold in this Chamber for the first time a joint sitting of the Irish MEPs and Members of the Dáil and Seanad.

Today’s proceedings mark the first address to Dáil Éireann by a President of the European Parliament and this is very important in the context of our relationship with that body. It is fitting that Mr. Schulz is with us, not only because Ireland will assume the role of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers in a few short months, but also because it represents a unique opportunity for the President of the European Parliament to address the representatives of the Irish people and, in turn, hear their views, as Mr. Schulz has been doing. This is particularly important at a time of significant challenge - as has been stated by every speaker - as we confront and overcome the difficulties imposed by the impact of the crisis in the eurozone, including continuing to meet exacting targets in successfully implementing an extremely challenging programme of economic reform.

As a passionate believer in the European project and the immense value of the European Parliament, I intend to focus my remarks on its role, which has been, and rightly so, considerably enhanced in recent years. The European Parliament is rightly proud of its status as the only directly elected EU institution. It is on the front line of democracy as a place where we debate the impact of policies on our day to day lives.

While the European Parliament is a unique institution, it none the less shares a common objective with national parliaments of representing citizens and working to secure their best interests. While I am dealing with this point, I acknowledge the contribution of Irish MEPs over many years, in particular the contribution of Pat Cox as a distinguished predecessor of President Schulz. A number of MEPs are present for today's proceedings and I welcome them.

As with the European Union itself, the Parliament has evolved and adapted over time. It is a living institution that is constantly growing, developing and changing. The most recent example of this is the Lisbon treaty. The European Parliament now co-legislates on an equal footing with the Council in the majority of areas within the EU's competence. The Parliament has always brought a more direct perspective from EU citizens to bear on complex and sometimes rather confusing subjects. Since the Lisbon treaty and despite the complexities of the legislative process, the European Parliament and the Council are working even more successfully together, delivering across a range of sectors, such as strengthening the Single Market and supporting jobs and innovation. These are critical areas for the future of Europe and will be a key focus of Ireland's Presidency next year.

For any Presidency to succeed, an effective alliance with the European Parliament must be among the key goals. The Irish Government is committed to forging such a relationship with the Parliament before and during our Presidency. We look forward to a much more in-depth relationship with the Parliament thereafter, with greater engagement in the work and corridors of the Parliament by the Government and by the Oireachtas.

Since taking office in 2011, the Government has demonstrated that we see the Parliament as central to our interests in the EU and, crucially, to our EU Presidency. Irish Ministers have met almost 120 MEPs to date - including the President, vice-presidents, committee chairs, political group leaders and co-ordinators, rapporteurs and shadow rapporteurs. The level of engagement will intensify further both as we approach the beginning of our Presidency and throughout our term. For my own part, I have been present at almost every plenary session in Strasbourg since last November. I have met the chairs and key members of a range of committees and political groups relevant to our Presidency priorities. Being present in Parliament and meeting and talking to MEPs has provided me with valuable insight into the range of perspectives within the Parliament, and it is an element of my work which I consider to be indispensable.

Next month, President Schulz will return to Dublin, leading a delegation of the European Parliament’s political leaders. The delegation will meet the Government to discuss Ireland’s priorities for the Presidency. A number of the Parliament’s committees will also visit Dublin before the end of the year and I will facilitate them in meetings with our various sectoral Ministers. Separately, the leading political groups within the Parliament are due to visit Dublin in November and, again, I will facilitate that process, ensuring they meet all the necessary representatives from Government, the various sectors in civil society, other organisations and Members of the Opposition. These face-to-face contacts provide strong foundations for relations with the Parliament during our Presidency. Today’s address by President Schulz also has a key part to play in building the mutual understanding and trust which is such a vital part of successful presidencies.

However, the value of these engagements goes beyond Ireland's Presidency. The legislative powers of the Parliament cover a range of policy areas from research and development to justice and home affairs, climate change, regional policy, financial market regulation, agriculture and fisheries. A deeper appreciation of the Parliament's perspective in these areas can only serve to enrich our participation in Council decision making beyond the Presidency. Put simply, engagement with the European Parliament is in our interest if we want to be centrally involved in the decision-making process of the European Union. As President Schulz pointed out, on a relatively frequent number of occasions the European Parliament has been way ahead of both national governments and the Council. Perhaps we need to listen more to the European Parliament because there is a constant flow of good and constructive ideas from the Parliament.

Substantial legislative work is continually under way between the Parliament and the Council, with the rotating Presidency obviously playing a key role as an interlocutor. Many important proposals will continue into our Presidency from the Cypriot Presidency. For example, the Cypriot Presidency is taking forward work on the key issue of the multi-annual financial framework, MFF, to which a number of speakers have alluded. I hope and believe we can see agreement within the Council on that vital budget in November. This being the case, as the Taoiseach pointed out, we will be responsible for taking forward some 70 pieces of sectoral legislation which will stem from the agreement. Even if the Cypriot Presidency concludes the budget negotiations, it is fair to say that quite a degree of the workload will fall on the shoulders of the Irish Presidency. However, the Parliament’s agreement to the overall budget is essential and there have been ongoing and close contacts between the representatives of the Parliament and the Council as the discussions have developed. Many issues related to the MFF will be discussed and debated in the Parliament during Ireland’s Presidency.

During our Presidency, we will work steadfastly, both within the Council and through constant dialogue with the Parliament, to make progress on this demanding legislative workload. The Irish Government will have a number of commitments in the European Parliament during the Presidency. The Taoiseach will present the Government’s priorities for our Presidency to the plenary in Strasbourg in early January, and the majority of Ministers will make presentations to the Parliament’s committees in Brussels the following week. I will represent the Council during plenary debates in Strasbourg throughout the Presidency, as will my colleagues. In December, I will meet the Parliament’s conference of committee chairs to discuss and set out legislative priorities across all sectors during our Presidency.

I mentioned at the outset the role of national parliaments and I know this subject is of particular interest to President Schulz who has expressed the view that involving national parliaments in European decision making helps to engage and win the trust of our citizens. I also share this interest, having chaired a sub-committee of the Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs on this issue during the lifetime of the previous Dáil. One common thread to emerge from that process is the challenge of engaging national parliamentarians in EU policy areas. It is not an easy task. It is complex and requires time and much dedication from members of parliament. I do not underestimate that challenge. Everyone is busy with lots of pressures and demands. The Lisbon treaty is crucial to all of this. It represented considerable progress in involving national parliaments in the functioning of the Union. However, challenges clearly remain and I think it fair to say that we are still at an evolving stage in terms of national parliaments engaging effectively at EU level.

A related challenge is the difficulty of communicating the role of the institutions and the implications of EU membership to citizens. Now and at all times, it is appropriate that we create time for the discussion of that subject. I see this as central to the work we will be undertaking during the European year of citizens, which will coincide with Ireland's Presidency next year. The challenges of parliamentary and citizen engagement are clearly intertwined. On entering Government, we made a number of proposals to enhance the role of the Houses of the Oireachtas in respect of Europe and many of these are now in place. All Oireachtas committees scrutinise draft EU legislation within their areas of expertise and meet Ministers prior to Council meetings to discuss the agenda. Indeed, I probably meet the Joint Committee on European Affairs every month and sometimes more frequently.

I consider that really fruitful and instructive and hope the members do also. My Government colleagues consider it very useful to appear before committees in advance of their attending European Council meetings.

The Taoiseach briefs the Dáil on the agenda and outcome of European Council meetings. That was not the procedure heretofore. The Houses are preparing their own substantial programme of interparliamentary meetings for Ireland's Presidency. These are all welcome developments but, of course, we need to do more. We must constantly increase our efforts to deepen Oireachtas engagement. The Government is really committed to working effectively with the Houses of the Oireachtas, as stated by the Ceann Comhairle in his opening remarks. There are discussions under way on a memorandum of understanding between the Government and the Houses on EU affairs in order to provide greater structure and clarity in regard to our respective commitments. I proposed this in this Chamber some months ago. Such memoranda of understanding exist in other Parliaments and having one would very much enhance our procedures for doing business.

Let me borrow from President Schulz's inaugural address to the European Parliament in January 2012. He stated:

[T]he EU is not a zero-sum game [...]. It means resolving disputes by means of dialogue and consensus; basing decisions on the principles of solidarity and democracy, and not simply deferring to the more powerful; [...] and placing the common good above individual interests.

These are universal principles to which we can all subscribe. They hold particular resonance for us as a small EU member state preparing for our Presidency next year.

We will aim to resolve constructively the disputes that inevitably arise during the detailed negotiations which are part and parcel of the co-decision process. We will work with the European Parliament in a spirit of mutual respect and trust, and with due regard for our respective roles and mandates. We look forward to working successfully with the European Parliament during this time in the interest of all EU citizens.

We warmly appreciate the visit of President Schulz to Ireland. In his visit, he has made a point of engaging with the public, including, as stated by Deputy Martin, through public debate at University College Dublin, where I believe he had a decisive victory. He made a valuable point when he went to see at first hand a programme through which young people can re-skill to re-enter the jobs market. President Schulz's choice of programme augurs well for our co-operation as we move into the Presidency.

I look forward to attending more plenary sessions of the European Parliament from now right through our Presidency as we intensify our engagement. I was at the Parliament yesterday meeting the co-ordinators of the ALDE group. That work continues. We look forward very much to President Schulz's return at the end of next month, during which visit he will be accompanied by the political leaders from the European Parliament. This visit will build on the work done yesterday and today and further prepare both sides for successful collaboration over the course of the next nine months and beyond.

That concludes the various statements. It was a great pleasure and honour to have President Martin Schulz among us this morning. We enjoyed his contribution very much and wish him every success in the remainder of his period in office as President of the European Parliament. I look forward to having much contact with him.

Sitting suspended at 12.25 p.m. and resumed at 12.55 p.m.