6th March 2014
By Elaine Murphy
The President of the European Commission now has something in common with half of Cork; a degree from UCC!
Well to be correct it’s a Doctorate, and an Honorary on at that.
José Manuel Durão Barroso was on the University College Cork campus yesterday.
Protestors were expected, but there were only around 50 mostly from the Anti Austerity Alliance, led by City Cllr Mick Barry.
Sinn Fein were not present despite their prospective MEP candidate Liadh Ni Riada expressing oppostion to the “conferring” only last weekend.
Students passing by had mixed opinions about the Quad being cordoned off by UCC Campus Security and the Gardai
So, protesters were saying that Mr Barosso is “the personification of a European Union which brought austerity to Ireland”,
however others are in favour of rewarding the European Man.
Before the event Freelance Reporter David O’Sullivan spoke with Former Cork City Lord Mayor Fine Gael Cllr Emmet O’Halloran he said the fact that people can protest is evidence that the EU has been good for Ireland
and Former Lord Mayor Fine Gael City Cllr Emmet O’Halloran said the European Union has been good for Ireland
Well, the above clips/soundbites were all recorded outdoors at various stages, but what happened indoors? Below is Mr Barosso’s speech. Whatever your views the last sentence is noteworthy, Mr Barosso (Dr Barosso) encouraged people to use their vote in May’s European Elections.
Address by José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me start by thanking you all. I am deeply grateful to be awarded this honorary degree from such a prestigious and dynamic university. Dr Murphy kindly proposed it to me quite some time ago and I am glad tonight to be able to keep my promise and come back to University College Cork.
And speaking of Cork, I am delighted to be back in the “People’s Republic”! The City has had more than its fair share of successful sportspeople, from Roy Keane to Sonia O’Sullivan and, of course, former Taoiseach, Jack Lynch.
I’ve heard of the luck of the Irish. Personally, I still believe that if you want the right results – in sport or in anything else in life – nothing replaces hard work and keeping your eye firmly on the goal. But you’ll be pleased to hear that just to make sure this evening goes smoothly I was careful not to cross the quad and I have not even set foot on the grass!
When I was last here in April 2008 it was for a debate on “Why young people should be interested in the EU”.
Since then, so many things happened. And today, I would like to share with you some reflections: on the sweeping changes we are going through across Europe, and on the important role that knowledge, education and innovation must play in our future economy; on what the future holds for Ireland as a country which has turned the corner on the crisis and can play a key role in the wider European recovery; and on why it matters today, as never before, that people of all ages make their voices heard on how they want Europe to evolve in the future.
The European Union is fundamentally about providing good jobs, higher living standards, and a better quality of life for all Europeans – for today and for the future. It is also about upholding European values in the world.
Today, we are emerging from the worst financial, economic and social crisis since the start of European integration. And that has clearly put our European model to the test. Many people even predicted that the euro area would break-up. But we have proven them wrong. We stuck together and supported each other.
Europe chose the right path – responding to the crisis by stepping up the structural reforms needed to get on in today’s modern, global, digital and competitive world.
And when you see what is happening in Ukraine at the moment, you realise the powerful attraction of the European model. While we are very self-critical – and we need to be – millions outside our borders want what we take for granted, in terms of standards of living, freedom of speech, freedom to protest, the rule of law, free and fair elections.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Europe has been through testing times, but the fundamentals are right and we know what we have to do. We have to correct the imbalances of the past and lay sound foundations for healthy, sustainable economic growth. Our aim is a job-rich future for young people here at this university and all around Europe.
We have learned painful lessons from the crisis. We learned that growth fuelled by debt is artificial and unsustainable; that latent internal competitive imbalances make the European Union – and the euro area in particular – vulnerable to deep economic shocks. And we saw that a common currency has to be backed up by strong coordination of economic and budgetary policies if it is to survive.
So we have worked for a safer, sounder financial sector that should better serve the real economy’s needs in a way that is both responsible and fair. We are delivering on the promise that the taxpayer will not be called upon in future to bail out banks that get into difficulty.
Now, for countries in the euro, we have effective tools to act against budgetary irresponsibility, to target macro-economic risks, to push for profound structural reforms – with the threat of strict sanctions if countries fail to follow sound policies and risk creating problems for their neighbours.
And we have stuck together. It was thanks to European solidarity that we could help the most vulnerable countries inside and outside of the euro area.
All these decisions would simply have been unimaginable five years ago – and, Ireland, through its successful Council Presidency last year, has played a leading role in delivering many of them.
Today, our efforts, based on a renewed sense of shared solidarity and responsibility, are starting to pay off. The latest Commission economic forecast points to a strengthening of economic growth across Europe as the recovery gains ground. And no need to say that Ireland is clearly a case in point.
2013 was a good year for Ireland: First of all, a great Presidency of the Council, which was universally admired for its professionalism and effectiveness, and then a successful exit from the economic assistance programme.
Economic growth has returned. In 2011 to 2013 Ireland grew faster than the euro area as a whole. We predict that Ireland’s GDP will increase by 1.8% in 2014 and by 2.9% in 2015. There has been a significant decline in unemployment; although 12% is still too high, there has been a sharp fall from the peak of 15% in 2012. Private households have saved more and are less indebted, and house prices have started to recover.
I know it has not been easy. Let me tell you that I admire and respect the courage and resilience of the Irish people. Families have made big sacrifices. But Ireland has shown it can be done – if there is a determined effort across all parts of society and politics. And you had precious solidarity and financial support from the European Union and its Member States.
Because whilst some like to portray Europe as being obsessed with austerity, in fact budgetary responsibility has always been accompanied by solidarity. Over the past seven years, Ireland has received nearly 14 billion euros in European Union budget support, for agriculture but also for social and infrastructure investment, as well as research. Given Ireland’s legendary ability to secure good outcomes from European funding, I am sure that Ireland will continue to perform strongly in drawing down funds under the new programming period that has just started.
And since 1994 the European Union has contributed 1.3 billion euros to supporting ongoing efforts to build lasting peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the border regions of Ireland. The Task Force I set up in 2007 has been successful in helping the region to engage more fully with the European Union and to reap the benefits of European policies, funding and networking. Because the European Union is not tied together by treaties alone, but by solidarity and day-to-day cooperation across borders, and between communities and regions. That is peace at work, and I remain very proud that in 2012, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
As a Portuguese citizen I have seen first-hand in my own country the difficulty of working through a crisis and the personal and social hardship that comes with it. But I am confident that both your country and mine will emerge much stronger from these key reforms.
Ireland is now well placed to pick up on this recovery. Over the past forty years, membership of the EU has opened markets for Irish business and created jobs for Irish citizens. Ireland has been influential in shaping European policies – from the single market, to trade, from enlargement to employment.
And today, Ireland’s experience and expertise can directly benefit other European countries who are still working through their programmes. They are interested in the way you helped bring about an effective turnaround. The OECD is increasingly citing best practice examples drawn from the Irish economy.
Ireland has returned to “normal” in EU terms and I really expect it to engage and to use its influence in Europe to help us shape the right policies for the post-crisis era.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I’ve talked about the progress that has been made, here in Ireland and right across Europe. We are on the right track but we still have some way to go. It is crucial that we stay the course and keep up the pace of structural reform to ensure our future competitiveness, sustainable jobs, and the well-being of our societies.
There is no room for complacency, when so many people, especially young people, have been looking far too long for a job and are struggling to get better living conditions.
Tackling unemployment is a matter of urgency for the sake of our future, of our prosperity, of our social cohesion.
It is, of course, the Member States who are in the front line here. Just today, the Commission has published an in-depth review which identifies the need for labour market reforms and more progress with further education, training and reskilling as priority areas for Ireland.
But Europe can, and is, helping. The European Commission has taken action to help ensure that all young people under 25 are offered a job, apprenticeship, traineeship or continued education within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed. This Youth Guarantee was adopted during the Irish Presidency in record time.
Youth unemployment currently accounts for 24% of all unemployment in Ireland. So I am pleased the Irish Government has recently issued a detailed plan to implement the Youth Guarantee here, and I’ll follow progress closely. And to support this we have made 6 billion euros of European money available to target specifically the regions most affected by youth unemployment, including in Ireland.
Then looking at the mid- to long-term, we have to get ready now for tomorrow’s jobs and new sources of growth. We live in a knowledge-based global economy – which is why universities like UCC are so important. All the three elements of the knowledge triangle – education, research and innovation – must be combined if Europe is to maintain a competitive edge.
We want the next big internet platform, e-service or mobile device to come from Europe. This is why education, research and innovation are at the very heart of the Europe 2020 strategy, our European blueprint to gear up Europe’s economy for sustainable growth and jobs.
We are working to create an environment of academic excellence and foster the necessary links between the world of education and the world of work. We have to get better at matching the supply of skills with labour market needs. We have to step up our investment in the skills of the future.
We know that many of the jobs that will be generated over the next two decades do not exist today. The digital economy offers huge potential. I’m reminded that the first professor of mathematics here – at what was then Queen’s College Cork – was George Boole, who laid the foundations for the digital age. But although the number of digital jobs is growing by 3% each year, the supply of qualified workers is shrinking. At a time of such high unemployment, how can it be right that Europe faces a gap of 900,000 unfilled ICT jobs in the coming years?
I am pleased that many companies have made pledges to provide new opportunities for digital skills and training within the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs which I launched under the Irish Presidency of the Council.
Looking a little closer to home, public institutions and private companies in and around Cork are on track to have received more than 77 million euros in European research funding since 2007. This money is supporting some 253 projects and many more jobs, including in local businesses. University College Cork alone is involved in 183 projects, bringing some 65 million euros to its laboratories and research facilities.
As part of this successful operation, the Tyndall National Institute for ICT research really stands out. It has secured 42 million euros in funding by taking part in more than 81 projects.
I am pleased that the EU will continue to support research and education in Cork. The new Western Gateway Building, which will shortly be opened, has benefitted from 25 million euros in EU funding. And I know that those of you involved in research and innovation are now working hard on your proposals for funding under our new Horizon 2020 programme.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Over these last six years the European Union has been in the eye of the storm. We are emerging stronger – better placed to manage interdependence and with economies that are gearing up to provide future growth and jobs. And we are emerging together, united.
In this regard, I would like to make one thing clear: the European Commission has always been on the side of Ireland, one could even say, one of your best friends. During the EU/IMF programme, I personally made the case to other European leaders for lower interest rates and longer maturities on Ireland’s loans. And I have always said that the commitments euro area Member States made in June 2012 should be fully respected, not just in terms of the letter of the agreement but also in terms of the spirit. This is a message I am happy to repeat here tonight. The European Commission will continue to stand by Ireland now that you have exited the programme.
And let me conclude on a crucial point: Europe is not something that happens despite the wishes of European people. No. Europe has to be built in partnership, with and for the Member States and European citizens. That is why I am so keen that there is a real debate on European issues from a European point of view with European citizens.
In Dublin last year I took part in a lively and engaging dialogue with people from around Ireland, the first in a series of debates taking place across Europe over the past year. And I hope that the discussion will intensify as we approach May’s European Parliament elections.
We know from our European history that it is always important to hold on to our dreams and ideals. Nothing worth having is easy to get. And we know from the epigraph W. B. Yeats chose for his 1914 collection of poems that “in dreams begins responsibility”.
As we are in a year of European elections, it is the moment for each of us to take our responsibility. Democracy is about active citizenship of people of all ages. You hold Europe’s future in your hands. You have a key role to play in building a vibrant society, a vibrant Europe, a better Europe.
In the past, Irish people have sometimes expressed specific concerns about one or other aspect of European integration. Your voice was heard and changes were made.
Because the European Union is not perfect. There are things that we can – and are – changing for the better. There are some things we should do more of, and other things in which Europe does not need to meddle.
So whatever you think about Europe, speak up. Don’t stay indifferent or silent. You can make a difference in Europe and contribute to driving change and building a brighter future.
So use your vote in the May European Elections. Decide that you will influence your own destiny and not leave it to others to decide for you. This is your opportunity to get the Europe you want and deserve – so don’t miss it!.