Euroscepticism is not new but in recent years it has become more vocal. In the Rome Declaration of March last year, EU Heads of State and Government pledged ‘to listen and respond to the concerns expressed by our citizens’ and to “address the challenges of a rapidly changing world.”
Having gone through a series of crises in recent years, including the Eurozone crisis, terror attacks, migration and Brexit, the EU is now moving in a more positive direction characterised by economic growth across all member states. To maintain this impetus we need to ensure that the EU is delivering practical improvements to the lives of citizens through policies to promote jobs and growth and by addressing internal and external challenges such as migration and international terrorism. Completion of the single market and Digital Single Market – which Ireland has been pushing – are two ways of doing that.
The public launch of the Citizens’ Dialogue on the Future of Europe by the Taoiseach in November marked the formal start of a process designed to engage the Irish public directly in a debate on the kind of Europe they want to see evolve. The aim of this process, which culminated in the National Citizens’ Dialogue on 9 May, has been to raise awareness of the issues involved and to encourage participation in the debate. We have been impressed by the level of engagement at all of the events, and will use this engagement process to formulate Ireland’s contribution to the wider European debate and specifically to President Tusk’s Leaders’ Agenda. Similar public outreach initiatives to engage citizens are taking place in many countries across the EU.
Engaging meaningfully with citizens across the Union; listening and responding to their concerns is the best means of ensuring support for our work on EU issues.