The Republic of Ireland holds the Presidency of the European Union since the 1st of January 2013 until the end of June. It takes the helm of Europe at a time of unprecedented crisis, not only economic and financial but also political, as shown by the recent announcement by Britain’s Prime minister David Cameron of an “in-out” referendum on Europe by 2017. In this respect, Europhiles welcome the Irish Presidency because Dublin is probably best placed to convince London of the importance and interest of staying in the Union.
Ireland assumes the rotating EU Presidency for the seventh time since it joined 40 years ago. It brings thus a lot of experience to the job, which is also an advantage given the current crisis. The EU presidency is held in turn for three semesters by “troïkas” composed of three countries. For the period between now and June 2014, Ireland will be succeeded by Lithuania and Greece.
Hard hit by the crisis since 2008, Ireland has pledged to work “for stability, jobs and growth”. These objectives can be understood as a response to the “all austerity” credo of other Member States. “The economic and social effects of the crisis have led to unacceptably high levels of unemployment and hardship for many across the EU, not least in Ireland,” says the official programme of the Irish Presidency. “The European Union has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its success in establishing peace that endures. Its principal project for 2013 and beyond is to restore prosperity in a fair and sustainable way over the longer term.”
In the area of Justice and Home Affairs, one of its priorities will be to fight cross-border fraud and to “improve the efficiency of enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters concerning cross-border disputes”. Another priority is the fight against terrorism and organised crime, in particular through “a comprehensive approach to law enforcement cooperation, including the management of the Union’s external borders.” The third priority is to improve management of immigration flows thanks to better border control and the finalisation of the European Asylum System. Lastly, the fourth priority is to “strengthen the right of citizens”. “The Presidency will work intensively during the European Year of Citizens to further the Rights and Citizenship Programme. This broad-ranging proposal contains programme elements which aim to combat violence against women and children and promote citizenship rights, the rights of the child, non-discrimination, gender equality, data protection and consumer protection in the single market.”
The Irish Presidency will also see the adoption of the EU Plan on drugs for the period 2013-2016. The Civil Society Forum on Drugs, in which Efus participates, is in close contact with the European Commission and Presidency and has formulated a series of recommendations about this action plan.
As part of its Presidency, Dublin will host in February 2013 the conference “Making diversity work for cities”, which is part of the Council of Europe Europe’s Intercultural cities initiative. Three cities member of Efus, Lisbon (PT), Reggio Emilia (IT) and Setubal (PT), will participate in the conference and Efus Executive Director, Elizabeth Johnston, will moderate the session on “Intercultural approaches to safety and neighbourhood development”.