Posted March 27th, 2013
Speech by Simon Harris TD to European Movement Ireland – Youth Media and the Irish Presidency – European Parliament Offices, Dublin – Wednesday, 27th March
“The challenge for our generation in an ever-evolving European Union”
Overview of where Europe is at & opportunities arising
Europe has suffered – economically, financially, from a social policy point of view and as a result of all of this from a reputational point of view. There is no point denying that. The last number of years has been extremely difficult for so many European citizens right across our Union.
The European project has been ambitious and perhaps at times this ambition was not equalled in terms of structures, cohesion, buckstops. This can clearly been seen in the Euro crisis where the Eurozone and the wider European Union has effectively been running to catch up with the financial crisis. This has led to mistakes, to inelegance and to delays.
But it also created an opportunity – for our generation – for young Europeans. It provides a chance, in fact a necessity for Europe, its institutions and its citizens to pause and ask what exactly does the European Union mean to us, what is it current purpose, what is its vision, how do its citizens fit in and interact with this vision.
What membership of the EU means
Growing up in Ireland, my first experience or awareness of the European Union was those big road construction signs decked with the European Union flag showing that x or y road project received European funding. But Europe and Europe’s relationship with Ireland is about and must be about so much more.
It is about access to markets.
It is about a shared currency.
It is about free movement of people, of goods, of ideas, of services.
All too often, the focus is on the shortcomings of Europe but it is important to stop and take note of the successes, the benefits, and the positive impact of our membership of the EU. The Irish people remain overwhelmingly in favour of our membership of the European Union.
In so many areas of society – from education, environmental protection, aviation travel, agriculture and equality – the European Union and our membership of it has impacted on our nation.
Despite our small size in terms of land mass and population, Irish citizens have served at the highest levels within the European Union – we have produced a European Parliament President, a Secretary General of the European Commission and we are now in our 7th European Presidency at a time which coincides with the 40th Anniversary of our membership of the European Union.
Tackling youth unemployment in Ireland and the European Union
Our Presidency comes at a time when the EU is trying to move steadily from economic crisis-mode to recovery-mode. And such recovery cannot just be economic; it cannot just happen at a macro level in a Brussels meeting room. It needs to be felt in the communities and homes of European citizens in Ireland and right around the EU. That is why the Irish Presidency is focusing on a range of initiatives most particularly and importantly the issue of youth unemployment.
Youth unemployment is appalling high in this country and at an EU level. Finally on the 28th February, the Union took action in a meeting chaired by the Irish Presidency in agreeing a youth guarantee scheme. This marked a positive step away from simply looking at our crisis in terms of bottom-line budget figures and instead looking at what needs to be done to give young people in Europe hope and optimism that the European Union can recover, can help and that this crisis will end.
This guarantee will ensure that once implemented that all young people under the age of 25 will be offered employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within 4 months of becoming unemployed.
€6 billion will be allocated through the EU budget for initiatives to deliver on this guarantee.
The framework has been agreed and the funding has been earmarked. The challenge now is to translate this into action in each Member State. And to be frank, this country’s record in relation to apprenticeships, traineeships is patchy at best. Whereas as other countries such as Finland have led the way in this. We cannot have a situation where a Union based on equality has so much inequality in terms of the access of young people to supports, training and assistance. Young people in Europe need to know a guarantee is in place and not one in which the quality of guarantee is based on geography. This is one of the tangible areas in which the Irish Presidency is demanding change in through this first-even European-wide youth initiative.
So we need to push to advance this, to turn the funding and the framework into reality into communities. It won’t be easy but it’s a very positive step forward.
The challenges for Europe and the danger of passive citizenship
I referred earlier to the impact of the EU on all our lives and all Member countries, which brings me to a point I wish to conclude on. We cannot afford to be simply passive citizens of Europe. We cannot afford to see or view Europe as something far away, or in the distance or a Brussels bureaucracy. The biggest flaw I see in our Union today is the democratic deficit and the transparency deficit. This has improved somewhat – the European Parliament has co-decision powers in many more areas – but there is an awful lot more that needs to be done.
We need to look at:
· How our Parliament scrutinises the work of the EU.
· How officials are appointed within the EU. Is it really sustainable to have people with the title “President” who are elected behind closed doors and without the input of citizens? Surely we should be electing such people?
· The need for transparency measures in terms of lobbying.
And so much more.
The European project is not static. It is ever evolving and changing and we need to – as young citizens – push it, prod it, demand it change, hold it to account and keep at it. The European Union has been good for Ireland and Ireland has been good for the European Union but things can always be better, things must be made better and all of us of our generation – young journalists or young politicians – have a responsibility and an onus to pursue this.
Posted December 14th, 2012
European Movement Ireland have launched a search for 25 young communicators to report on Ireland’s upcoming Presidency of the Council of the EU from January to June 2013. Youth Media and the Irish Presidency (YMIP) is a new 32-county initiative open to 18-25 year olds with a passion for communicating and an interest in Ireland’s Presidency and its importance for Ireland’s citizens.
YMIP will encourage a young, fresh perspective on Ireland’s Presidency, European affairs and Ireland’s relationship with the EU. The Programme also aims to encourage youth engagement at local and regional levels with Europe. Importantly, no prior journalism experience is necessary to participate in YMIP. EM Ireland are looking instead for interested and enthusiastic communicators, be they writers, photographers, bloggers, filmmakers or podcasters.
YMIP participants will be given access to official Presidency events and tasked with reporting on these. Submissions will then be published on the EM Ireland website, with the opportunity of also appearing on SpunOut, and will be actively promoted by the EM Ireland Communications teams via social media and to our extensive regional and national media contacts. Training and mentoring will also be provided to participants by European Movement Ireland over the course of the six months.
Further information can be found and application forms downloaded from the YMIP webpage. The deadline for applications is Wednesday 19 December 2012. http://www.europeanmovement.ie/ymip/
Posted July 5th, 2012
ECB rate cut should give small boost to economy
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has today (Thursday) welcomed this morning’s auction of three month treasury bills by the NTMA as positive first step back into the bond markets. Deputy Harris added that the demand for the bills and the interest paid is a reflection of Ireland’s growing international reputation.
“We want to exit our bailout programme, get back into the money markets as quickly as possible and regain full control of our financial affairs. This morning’s auction is an important step in the right direction.
“Bond auctions mean little to people who are trying to pay their mortgages or get back to work. But today’s auction is actually a small but important step on our road to recovery. For the last two years, Ireland has not been able to borrow money on the markets because our economy was in such a damaged state that no one wanted to lend to us. As we saw today, the Government is turning this situation around.
“The decision of the Irish people to vote Yes to the Stability Treaty, and the deal reached at the EU Summit last week are having a positive impact on Ireland’s international reputation. Our bond yields are coming down; that means investors have faith in the ability of the Irish economy to recover.
“This will be further boosted by the ECB’s decision to cut interest rates to a record low. This small adjustment is designed to give Ireland and other economies across Europe a shot in the arm, by leaving consumers with a little extra money in their pockets.
“The Government’s immediate focus is on fleshing out the deal on bank debt, and getting the best possible result for the Irish taxpayer. This issue will be progressed at the Finance Ministers meeting this Monday. A fairer deal on bank debt and a renewed focus on stimulus and growth will give our economy the impetus it needs to stay on the path to recovery.”
Posted June 29th, 2012
Wicklow TD says Brussels deal could significantly reduce the debt burden on Wicklow taxpayers.
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has said an agreement reached in Brussels in the early hours of this morning (Friday) and described by the Taoiseach as a ‘seismic shift’ in European policy could bring down Ireland’s debt burden.
Deputy Harris said, “This Government has been 100% committed to ensuring a better deal for Irish taxpayers, and last night’s summit deal represents significant progress in this regard. We have now secured Euro Group agreement that the link between bank debt and the state is going to be broken. This is hugely significant, as the single biggest difficulty we have been facing for some time is the level of bank debt being carried by the State.”
“Under the deal, Ireland is names as getting equal treatment to other countries with difficulties. As a result, the heads of government’s decision will now be sent to the Euro-group for an analysis of how best this can be used to re-engineer the debt burden on the Irish taxpayer.”
“The summit agreed that Euro-area rescue funds could be used to stabilise bond markets without the need for recipient countries to take on additional austerity measures or economic reforms, and also lays the foundation for a European banking union. As a result, a single supervisory body for European banks will be created by the end of the year.”
Posted May 28th, 2012
Speaking ahead of polling day this Thursday, May 31st, Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris said that groups from across the business, retail, hospitality and agriculture sectors have all come out to strongly endorse a Yes vote in the Stability Treaty Referendum.
“A Yes vote this coming Thursday will be a Yes to investment, stability and recovery. It will be a key step on our road to economic recovery, and will be vital as we continue to attract inward investment by helping to bring about the right conditions for growth.
“It is little wonder then, that a huge host of groups from across the business, retail, hospitality and agricultural sectors have endorsed a Yes vote. In the world of business and retail, Chambers Ireland, the Irish Exporters Association, Retail Ireland, the Small Firms Association and ISME are just some of the bodies calling for a Yes vote, because they recognise how important the Treaty is for our economic recovery.
“In the hospitality sector, the Irish Hotels Federation, the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation, the Vintners Association and the Restaurants Association of Ireland are also calling for a Yes vote on May 31st. They know how important stability is at a time when tourism is growing and creating jobs.
“The agricultural bodies, including the IFA, the ICMSA, the ICSA and Macra na Feirme are supporting the Treaty because they believe it is in the best interests of our farming sector. Irish agriculture has had a great couple of years, with bumper exports and major opportunities emerging in China and other markets. We already export to 170 countries worldwide. If we want to build on this impressive performance, a Yes vote will be crucial.
“As we enter the final days of the campaign, I would encourage everyone to focus on the positive reasons to vote Yes, and to stick to the facts. A Yes vote will give certainty to job creating investors. It will ensure we have access to Europe’s new permanent emergency fund, and it will ensure future governments stick to sensible budget rules.
“That is why I am encouraging everyone across Wicklow to come out this Thursday and vote Yes to a working Ireland.”
Posted May 24th, 2012
Now it’s time to focus on the contents of the Treaty
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has welcomed the clarification at the EU leaders summit in Brussels that the text of the Stability Treaty will not change. Deputy Harris added that now it is time to focus on the facts and the contents of the Treaty in the run up to polling day.
“We’ve received categorical confirmation from the Taoiseach at the EU leaders’ summit that the text of the Stability Treaty will not change, putting to bed the false claims being made by those calling on us to reject the Treaty. We know what we are voting on, we know this will not change, so now is the time to focus on the facts.
“Despite what Sinn Féin and others have claimed, the Treaty is not going to change. Voting Yes on May 31st is in Ireland’s best interests, giving job creating investors the confidence they need.
“Voting Yes will also ensure we have access to the ESM, Europe’s new emergency fund, should we need it. The Referendum Commission has made this situation very clear on page 10 of their information leaflet sent to every home in the country. It clearly spells out the fact that only countries which ratify the Stability Treaty will be able to access this fund.
“So now that the two main myths about the Treaty have been dispelled, let’s focus on the facts. Let’s focus on what the Treaty means for Ireland and our future.
“The Stability Treaty will give investors confidence, it will ensure we have access to emergency funds if we need them, and it will make sure future governments stick to sensible budget rules.
“A Yes vote on May 31st will be a key step on our road to economic recovery, helping to bring about the right conditions for growth.”
Posted May 18th, 2012
UKIP ask others to butt out of UK affairs, but have no problem interfering in ours
Fine Gael TD for Wicklow, Simon Harris, has today (Friday) called the intervention of British anti-Stability Treaty campaigners in the Irish debate as insulting to Irish people.
“The fact that the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, is in Ireland this week campaigning against the Stability Treaty and circulating a leaflet which depicts Irish voters in chains being whipped by German Chancellor Angela Merkel is insulting and demeaning to Irish people.
“UKIP is arguably the most Eurosceptic party in the EU and has opposed every European Treaty as a matter of course. They advocate the UK leaving the European Union, want work permits introduced for every European person – including Irish – who want to work in the UK, and is campaigning for a five year immigration freeze in the UK. UKIP has also been dismissed by British Prime Minister, David Cameron, as a party full of fruitcakes and closet racists.
“The Irish people fought hard for this country’s independence and every citizen has the right to their own views on this matter. We are perfectly capable of having a debate on this Treaty without the interference of any fringe British party.
“For a party that has such an issue with European interference in UK affairs, they seem to have no problem in interfering with Ireland’s democratic process.”
Posted May 17th, 2012
IBEC survey highlights benefits of a ‘Yes’ vote to Wicklow .
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris has said the support of 90% of business leaders for a Yes vote in the Stability Treaty Referendum highlights the impact a positive result will have on consumer confidence and economic growth. The survey, carried out by IBEC, is based on the replies of over 400 CEOs.
“This IBEC survey has made some very interesting findings, and I think it underlines the importance of a Yes vote for businesses in Wicklow and right across the country. Not only do 90% of CEOs believe a Yes vote is important to the future prosperity of their business, 83% believe it will have a positive impact on Ireland’s ability to attract Foreign Direct Investment.
“Furthermore, the survey gives an interesting perspective on the impact of a rejection of the Treaty. If we oppose the Treaty, 87% of business leaders believe it will limit our ability to do business in Europe. At the moment, 60% of our exports go to the EU. As the only English-speaking country in the Eurozone, we are in a great position to further capitalise on this market. Why would we want to put this at risk?
“A Yes vote will help to deliver the certainty and stability needed for job creation. We’ve seen thousands of jobs created by companies like Apple, Mylan, Cisco, HP and Paypal in recent months. Clearly Irish business leaders believe our ability to continue to attract this kind of investment would be severely hampered by a rejection of the Treaty.
“According to IBEC, Irish companies are making a direct link between passing the Treaty and the future success of their own businesses. These are job creators operating in the real economy, and I think their views should not be ignored.
“While unemployment rates remain far too high, there’s been some small progress on job creation in the last year. For example, by the end of 2011, there were 11,000 more people working in accommodation and food services than when the Government came to office. There was also a 6,000 net increase in jobs in IDA-supported companies last year and there was a 30% increase in companies investing in Ireland for the first time.
“We need to give ourselves the best possible chance of continuing with this progress. The Stability Treaty won’t solve everything, but it will be a key step as we rebuild a working Ireland.”
Posted May 9th, 2012
Europe Day celebration at St Laurence’s NS, Delgany attended by Minister for Europe and Simon Harris TD.
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, was joined this morning (Wednesday) by the Minister of State for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton, at St Laurence’s NS in Delgany to mark ‘Europe Day’.
Deputy Harris said, “I was delighted to be invited back to my alma matter to take part in their annual Europe Day celebration, which recognises the cultural diversity of Europe, and the unity we share. It was wonderful to see the school doing so well, and leading the way I encouraging students to engage with Europe.”
“One thing that had changed since I was in school was the number of students taking part in the Comenius Programme, which lets students from across Europe come to Ireland on a study exchange.”
“It was inspiring to see students from St Laurence’s engage so thoroughly with the idea of Europe and I commend the Principal of the school, its staff and parents for making this celebration possible.”
Posted May 4th, 2012
Minister for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton TD, and Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, have today (Friday) launched Fine Gael’s dedicated website for the Stability Treaty Referendum Campaign voteyes2012.ie.
The site explains why a Yes vote is vital to ensure stability, investment and recovery as we rebuild a working Ireland. It was created by Webfactory, the leading Irish full-service digital agency.
Speaking this morning at Webfactory’s office in Dublin, Minister Creighton said: ‘We want to ensure that everyone is armed with as much information as possible on the Stability Treaty, and that is why Fine Gael is launching our comprehensive website today.
“It’s great to be here, launching the website at Webfactory; a thriving, home-grown Irish business. The success of enterprises like Webfactory underlines the need to vote Yes in the Stability Treaty, so we can maintain the right conditions for investment and jobs growth.”
Deputy Harris added: ‘The launch of the website today follows on from our launch earlier this week of our Facebook feature inviting members of the public to ask questions on the Stability Treaty.
“Fine Gael is determined to run an energetic campaign seeking a strong Yes vote; that is why we are harnessing every platform possible to make sure people feel fully informed. Our website outlines the reasons why we are calling for a Yes vote, as well as a link to the Treaty document and some frequently asked questions.”