The national statement on the European Union sets out Ireland's priorities for the European Union for the next five years. It will guide the Taoiseach's contribution to an informal debate between EU leaders at Sibiu, Romania, on 9 May on the development of a strategic agenda for the EU for the period from 2019 to 2024. The strategic agenda will be agreed at the June European Council. It will be the successor to the Strategic Agenda for the Union in Times of Change, which was adopted in 2014.
It would be an understatement to say that the Union has seen changes since 2014. Some of the most important, such as the migration crisis and Brexit, were not anticipated. It is facing pressures on its borders, challenges to the multilateral political and economic order, and strident political voices, from inside and outside, that challenge its values. For the first time, a member state of the EU has decided to leave. We must give strong support to the Union of today, with all its imperfections. At the same time, we must redouble our efforts to build a Europe that fulfils more completely the aspirations of its citizens. Although of course they are important, our efforts must go beyond building economic prosperity and growth while noting the great progress made since 2014, above all in Ireland. We must also offer a vision of our values as Europeans, expressed in solidarity with the disadvantaged in Europe and in a generous engagement with the wider world, particularly our neighbourhood. Europe cannot afford to stand still. It needs momentum, and maintaining this momentum is what makes it strong.
The Union is relevant to almost every aspect of people's lives. The Union must lead on the big issues that individual member states simply cannot tackle alone. The national statement is the outcome of the citizens' dialogue process conducted throughout the country last year, ably led and piloted by the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee. Each Department has responded to the issues raised by our citizens and set out objectives for the future. The comprehensive document that has emerged will underpin Ireland's approach to the negotiation of the strategic agenda.
The national statement deals with many issues but I will focus on a few that are of most importance to Ireland. The Single Market is one of the Union's greatest achievements but it needs to address the changes we face. Most economic growth now comes from services but the internal market in services is seriously incomplete. We also need to make the Single Market fit for a new digital age. The digital transformation will accelerate even further over the next five years. Europe can become a world leader in all things digital if it invests in the necessary research and innovation to make it happen. Greater interconnectedness will empower communities and enhance the quality of our lives. This is one of the reasons the national broadband plan is so important for the country. Artificial intelligence and automation will also change the way we live, and will disrupt the labour market. The new strategic agenda will, therefore, also need to anticipate these developments and protect the most vulnerable.
Climate change is a clear and present danger to our people, especially the weakest and poorest. Climate action must be ambitious, and has to be a collective effort throughout the EU. Member states need to invest in a Union that is a global leader in finding climate-smart solutions. This will pose challenges for all of us, not least Ireland. Time is running out. I believe passionately that we need a more effective political dialogue between the European Union and Africa, and I am glad to see this was reflected in the citizens' dialogue and now in the national statement. The national statement also makes a strong case for the Union playing a central role in advancing the sustainable development goals. These ambitions are in full accord with our recently published White Paper on international development.
The strategic agenda is about how the EU 27 will work together in the future but it cannot ignore the consequences of Brexit. Ireland wants a deep and comprehensive future partnership between EU and the UK. Negotiating this partnership will be a major challenge and a priority for Ireland and the Union. The future EU-UK trade agreement will be, by a long way, the most significant the Union has ever negotiated. I commend our national statement on the European Union to the House. In particular, I thank my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, for her role in putting it together.