News from Europe

This week I want to talk to you about the two days I spent in Brussels with the European Affairs Committee. It was very ably and professionally led by Joe Costelloe TD and Chairperson and we had an outstanding experience. Everything we dealt with impacts on the lives of people in a big way. About 70% of the decisions that affect us have their origin in Europe. It is for that reason that I asked the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, to appoint me to this committee.

Our first meeting was with Catherine Day, Secretary General of the Commission. We should be so proud to have one of our own here. She sees real potential for Europe in Chinese and Eastern Markets. I asked her about the pending Mercosur Deal and its implications for Irish Agriculture. This is the Free Trade arrangement with Latin America that will give their beef easier access to European Markets. She said that it would not happen anytime soon. She further assured me that imports may not be as negative as expected. On the Corporation Tax issue, she felt that we needed to explain our position more, team up with other Countries and keep building goodwill.

We met with Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič. I put it to him that we needed to reduce administrative burdens on small businesses and procedures. He assured me that by 2012 the Administrative burden would be down by 25% . He talked of ‘Gold Plating’ which is the process whereby Governments use Directives as an excuse to go further.

We met with Commissioner Ollie Rehn’s Chief Advisor. He was upbeat about Ireland, distinguishing between it and both Portugal and Greece. We pressed him on ‘Burden Sharing’ but he refused to budge on it, stating that this was current practical policy rather than a privileged position.

After a good discussion with Mr Richard Corbett form the Cabinet of President Van Rompuy where many of the same issues arose. Our next meeting was without own MEP’s. They did assure us that new regulatory procedures were going into place to control the Financial Sector into the future. Our MEP’s emphasised how much Ireland’s reputation was improving. They have had an input alongside our Government in creating the conditions for very significant Interest Rate Regulations.

Our last meeting was with our own Commissioner Maire Geoghegan Quinn. That meeting was a real highlight. She is doing Ireland proud. On a personal level I was delighted to meet Cavan native, Patricia O’Reilly who is a member of her Cabinet. I asked Commissioner Quinn about the C.A.P. Review and Mercosur. Her answers were really positive and reassuring in both instances. I raised issues around Education and Entrepreneurship and I am confident that they will be tackled.

I consider these days to have been really worthwhile. If you have issues arising or other views I would love to get them.

Senator Joe O'Reilly representing Cavan & Monaghan 2010. | An ExSite website