Irish journalists visit Brussels
Two media seminars, one for national journalists and the other for regional and local journalists, were organised by the European Parliament Office and the European Commission Representation in Ireland. During the three-day visits, the work of the Europe Parliament and the European Commission was explained to the journalists in a series of meetings with Hans-Gert Pöttering, the President of the European Parliament, Charlie McCreevy, the European Commissioner from Ireland and Bobby McDonagh, Ambassador, Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU and other senior civil servants of both institutions.
Seminar for regional and local journalists
For the local and regional media seminar, which took place 8-10 October, a group of 20 Irish journalists came to Brussels to learn more about the European Union, its workings and how the EU affects the daily life of Irish citizens. The highlight of the first day was meeting the Irish Members of the European Parliament, who talked over how EU legislation impacts on citizens in their constituencies. The roundtable discussion with the MEPs was followed by an introduction to the Petitions Committee, which deals with petitions from Irish citizens. The second day saw meetings with Oliver Drewes, the spokesperson for the Irish Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy (Internal Market and Services), and with Peter Power, the spokesperson for the Commissioner for Trade (former Peter Mandelson). During their visit the group received further insight into the Health review of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the institutional state of the European Union.
National Media seminar
The second media seminar targeted Irish journalists from national papers, TV- and radio stations. All together 13 journalists went to Brussels, 13-15 October, to visit the Parliament and the Commission. The first day started with the traditional roundtable discussion with Irish MEPs. Before the this discussion, journalists met with Spanish MEP Ìñigo Méndez de Vigo to debate Parliament's position on the Lisbon Treaty and with Finnish MEP Satu Hassi to get further insights into Parliament's position on Climate Change. The afternoon of the first day was based around a meeting with the Secretary-General of the European Commission (the highest position for non-political staff of the Commission), currently held by Catherine Day, an Irish woman. In the evening the group attended a buffet dinner, which was hosted by the European Commissioner from Ireland, Charlie McCreevy. The highlight of the second day was a meeting with the President of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Pöttering, who talked with the journalists about the forthcoming meeting of the European Council. Concentrating on the current financial crises, on climate change and energy, Pöttering also turned to the issue of the Lisbon treaty. He stressed the need for Lisbon to go ahead, as "the great challenges we now face make the Lisbon treaty, which will give us a Europe that is capable of action, democratic and close to its citizens, more necessary then ever." While tomorrow's challenges would turn all too quickly into today's challenges, he reinforced his confidence in Ireland and pointed out that "all the Member states and the European Institutions now have a great responsibility to work with Ireland to find a solution acceptable to all."
Celebration of the 50th Anniversary in Dublin
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the European Parliament, the Office of the European Parliament in Ireland hosted an event at which Parliament's former President, Pat Cox, and its former Secretary-General, Sir Julian Priestley, were the key note speakers, and at which Ireland's European Affairs Minister, Dick Roche, also spoke.
Francis Jacobs, Head of the European Parliament Office in Ireland, also made a short opening speech in which he emphasised that during his own career at the Parliament, the latter had expanded from 198 members from 9 countries to 785 from 27, and from a Parliament with mere consultative powers to one with very real legislative, budgetary and appointment powers. He also paid tribute to the large number of former Irish members of the Parliament who had come to the event, as well as to the longest-serving member of the EP staff in Ireland, Mary Killoran, who had started work with the office in 1978, but who was retiring at the end of the year.
European Affairs Minister Dick Roche then highlighted the three basic principles of the European Union: democracy, freedom and the rule of law. and he went on to speak with obvious emotion about a recent visit he had made to the battlefields at Verdun which had underlined the fact that "Europe's greatest achievement is the longest period of peace in European History".
The first keynote speech was then given by Pat Cox, who served as a member in the European Parliament from 1989 to 2004, and was then its President between 2002 and 2004. He highlighted the uniqueness of the European Parliament in respect to its power to making supranational law and being a forum for discussion forum for political opinions from all across Europe. Looking ahead to the upcoming European elections, he expressed his regret that he would still be waiting for the first "true European Elections". He called for a debate on European topics in the campaign rather just discussing national issues. Finally he stressed the key and evolving role of members and civil servants of the European Parliament. He went on to say that "The European Parliament, represented by its former and current members, has always been a successful tribune, where all voices of assent or dissent have found their expression and may do so for a long time to come."
The final keynote speech was given by Sir Julian Priestley, the Parliament's Secretary-General between 1997 and 2007, and who has just written a book on some key moments in the evolution of the European Parliament, entitled "Six Battles that shaped Europe's Parliament". Pointing out that the European Parliament had now become a fully-fledged Parliament with real powers, he mentioned four important features which illustrated its new importance: legislative powers, budgetary powers, control of the executive and being a forum for peaceful expression of opinions. He highlighted how the Parliament had gained these powers in the past, and how it executes them today. Julian Priestley concluded his journey through the history of the European Parliament, looking forward to future challenges for the Parliament: "Although it has become much more visible of late, the European Parliament is still not seen by much of its electorate as its Parliament - its voice in Europe's construction. In this lies the greatest challenge."
The event was attended by a wide range of guests, including members of the European and Irish national parliament, journalists and diplomats, government officials and representatives of Irish civic society. In particular, a considerable number of former Irish Members of the European Parliament from different parties and constituencies took part in the event, including two from the pre- 1979 nominated Parliament. The last two heads of the Dublin Office were also present.
For further information, please contact the European Parliament Office at 01 605 7900