The Launch of Your Future Took Place Today.
I attended the launch of the White Paper on The Future of Europe this morning in Dublin. This was the first official airing in Ireland of the consultation process to establish where the EU will be in 2025. It was also the first opportunity for the government to let the public know where they stand on the European Unions' future direction – do they want 1) further integration, 2) a la carte, 3) return to just a relationship on trade, or 4) stay as we are.
We were 'treated' to three speakers; Deirdre Clune MEP, Minister Daragh Murphy and last but not least, European AGRI Commissioner Phil Hogan. That’s the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament - all three legs of the EU stool.
Having travelled to Dublin early in order to take in the meeting I intended to ask a few questions. Basic enough questions, just to establish a few ground rules on the great consultation process. Questions like, when would the public be consulted? They didn't have an answer. How would it happen? They hadn't decided. Where would it happen? They had no idea. 'All to be decided yet' is probably the best possible spin that the government could really put on it.
So here we have it. By September the opinions of the people of Ireland will be passed on to the European Parliament, along with the opinions of all other 26 remaining Member States. Yet four months before the deadline not alone is there no process in place but our government hasn't even thought about it.
I can't say I'm surprised. For years political parties in Ireland have had an ambiguous (at best) official line on the EU - 'agin' it back home but brown-nosing while in Brussels. To engage in a real consultation process with the people of Ireland on the EU would mean that political parties would have to nail their colours to the mast. However, catching an eel with your earlobes would be easier than establishing where our politicians stand on the Future of the EU.
Deirdre Clune was suitably and typically vague. She said that we need "more co-operation not integration". When asked what she meant by this she went on to tell us what ‘she thought’ she meant. You couldn't make it up.
Phil Hogan went so far as to suggest that the various options offered are by-and-large nothing but lip service to the concept of choice. He used the review of the Common Agricultural Policy to paint a picture for us. “A bit like on CAP renegotiation, one of the options could be ‘no more CAP’, but that doesn't mean that it's an option". So basically in other words you can have any colour you like so long as it’s even deeper EU-blue - further integration. In Minister Murphy's contribution he said that he was suspicious of a potentially "divisive" process.
On several occasions at todays launch a new Red C opinion poll was quoted claiming that 88% of people in Ireland are now in favour of the EU. You'd think that with such Putinesqe-type ratings on the EU, the government would only be delighted to bring us right into the core of this process. So why don't they? Why is our Minister for Europe suspicious of a potentially "divisive" process". Is it because that while they know the Irish public are in favour of cooperation with our neighbours they also know that pushing a European Army or abandoning our budgets to Berlin are a step to far? Yet as things stand, that's where we are heading. The ratcheting process continues unchecked.