Overall perception of the French Presidency of the EU

The posi­tion of the gov­ern­ment on France’s tenure in the Pres­i­den­cy of the EU is pos­i­tive. The Taoiseach, Bri­an Cowen, in his state­ment to the Dáil on the out­come of the Decem­ber Euro­pean Coun­cil meet­ing remarked that the “excel­lent French Pres­i­den­cy of the Union” was demon­strat­ed by the fact that “such a heavy agen­da could be com­plet­ed with unan­i­mous­ly agreed con­clu­sions”. Mr. Cowen con­tin­ued by stat­ing that his gov­ern­ment is “indebt­ed to [Pres­i­dent Sarkozy] for the lead­er­ship and assis­tance he has pro­vid­ed Europe”[1].

Irish media pre­sent­ed a sim­i­lar­ly pos­i­tive view of the French Pres­i­den­cy. The Irish Times news­pa­per describes it – in an edi­to­r­i­al – as an “effec­tive” Pres­i­den­cy dur­ing a dif­fi­cult six months for Europe. The over­all view in Ire­land of the Pres­i­den­cy is that it was suc­cess­ful in its prag­mat­ic yet ambi­tious approach that allowed the mem­ber states to reach strong com­pro­mis­es on impor­tant issues such as cli­mate change and how to deal with the finan­cial crisis.[2]

Mr. Cowen par­tic­u­lar­ly praised the French Pres­i­den­cy for the work put into secur­ing an agree­ment between Ire­land and the oth­er mem­ber states on how to recov­er and move for­ward from the rejec­tion of the Lis­bon Treaty by the Irish elec­torate in the June referendum.[3]

Common Agricultural Policy ‘health check’

The con­clu­sion and agree­ment of the Com­mon Agri­cul­tur­al Pol­i­cy (CAP) ‘Health Check’ under France’s Pres­i­den­cy was seen by the Irish gov­ern­ment as a “good deal for Irish farm­ers”, as expressed by Mr. Cowen, who in the same speech acknowl­edged the ini­tial diver­si­ty of inter­ests and opin­ions among the Mem­ber States of the Union that exist­ed pri­or to this con­clu­sion dur­ing the French Presidency.[4] The Irish Farm­ers Asso­ci­a­tion echoed the pos­i­tive reac­tion to the agree­ment of the CAP “Health Check”.[5]

Climate change and energy

The ini­tia­tives and agree­ments in the area of Cli­mate Change and Ener­gy that were a large part of the French Pres­i­den­cy received reg­u­lar media cov­er­age in the Irish media. Avril Doyle MEP (rep­re­sent­ing the oppo­si­tion Fine Gael polit­i­cal par­ty) hailed the Ener­gy-Cli­mate Pack­age passed by the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in Decem­ber 2008 as a land­mark agree­ment in the fight against cli­mate change.[6] This achieve­ment was cred­it­ed in the Irish media in large part to the nego­ti­a­tion efforts of the French Pres­i­den­cy both between Mem­ber States and with the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. An Irish par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee described the agree­ment as robust and wor­thy of sup­port, although it did recog­nise the new emis­sions tar­gets as rep­re­sent­ing a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge to the Irish gov­ern­ment giv­en cur­rent dif­fi­cul­ties that Ire­land is hav­ing in reach­ing exist­ing emis­sions reduc­tions hat it has agreed to.[7]

Immigration

A spokesman for the Irish Min­is­ter for Jus­tice, Der­mot Ahern, said that the gov­ern­ment was favourably dis­posed towards the pro­posed Immi­gra­tion and Asy­lum Pact and agreed with most of its points. The Irish media com­ment­ed that the Irish gov­ern­ment demon­strat­ed a will­ing­ness to fol­low the strong lead giv­en by the French Pres­i­den­cy on the issue of Immi­grants in the EU bloc; while also draw­ing atten­tion to the crit­i­cism the pact received from the UN High Com­mis­sion on Refugees, the Irish Human Rights Com­mis­sion, the Irish Refugee Coun­cil and some vol­un­tary agen­cies. In an Edi­to­r­i­al, the Irish Times com­ment­ed that this agree­ment could sig­nal the devel­op­ment of a “Fortress Europe” men­tal­i­ty that could exac­er­bate peo­ple traf­fick­ing and a neg­a­tive view of the EU in devel­op­ing coun­tries, and that this agree­ment needs to match by a sim­i­lar effort in increas­ing EU devel­op­ment assis­tance to the coun­tries from which these ille­gal immi­grants are com­ing. [8]

Irish perceptions of the Czech Presidency

There has been lit­tle ref­er­ence to or dis­cus­sion of the agen­da and issues cen­tral to the Czech Pres­i­den­cy of the Union amongst Irish politi­cians or the media, although there was some pub­lic dis­cus­sion con­cern­ing a meet­ing between lead­ing Lis­bon Treaty oppo­nent Declan Gan­ley of Lib­er­tas and the Czech Pres­i­dent, Mr Vaclav Klaus, in Novem­ber 2008 which prompt­ed some back­lash as it was seen by some in the Irish pop­u­la­tion as impolitic on the part of the Czech gov­ern­ment. Despite this inci­dent, the Irish Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs, Micheál Mar­tin, has voiced con­fi­dence in the Czech EU Presidency.[9]

 

 

 

[1] “State­ment by the Taoiseach, Mr. Bri­an Cowen T.D. to Dáil Éireann on Wednes­day 17 Decem­ber 2008 on the out­come of the Decem­ber Euro­pean Coun­cil” avail­able at: http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie (last access: 23 March 2009).
[2] “Sarkozy’s achieve­ments”, The Irish Times, 17 Decem­ber 2008.
[3] “Lis­bon Treaty deal is ‘major step’, says Cowen”, The Irish Times, 17 Decem­ber 2008.
[4] “Speech by the Taoiseach, Mr. Bri­an Cowen, T.D., on the occa­sion of the Irish Farm­ers’ Asso­ci­a­tion Annu­al Gen­er­al Meet­ing, in Moran’s Hotel on Tues­day, 27th Jan­u­ary, 2009 at 8.00pm” avail­able at: http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie (last access: 23 March 2009).
[5] “Agri­cul­ture: CAP Health Check will help farm­ers meet new chal­lenges” avail­able at: www.ifa.ie (last access: 23 March 2009).
[6] “Euro­pean Par­lia­ment pass­es cli­mate change”, The Irish Times, 18 Decem­ber 2008.
[7] Joint Com­mit­tee on Cli­mate Change and Ener­gy Secu­ri­ty, EU Scruti­ny Report No. 1, COM (2008) 16, COM (2008) 17, COM (2008) 19 – Scruti­ny Report on three pro­pos­als relat­ing to the imple­men­ta­tion of the EU Cli­mate – Ener­gy leg­isla­tive pack­age, Octo­ber 2008, A8/1563.
[8] “The EU and immi­gra­tion”, The Irish Times, 8 July 2008.
[9] “Mar­tin con­fi­dent in Czech EU pres­i­den­cy”, RTE News, 31 Decem­ber 2008, avail­able at: www.rte.ie/news/2008/1231/lisbon.html (last access: 23 March 2009).