In Dublin, in Brussels and in Strasbourg, the seven-day period from 12-18 April was as busy as it gets for Ireland’s EU Presidency with good results and progress for stability, jobs and growth. Below is a flavour of what went on at political level during these seven days....
Friday 12 April – Informal EU Finance Ministers (Ecofin) starts
The Informal Eurogroup and Ecofin meetings at Dublin Castle got underway, with Presidency and Dublin Castle staff in place from 5.30am and media assembling from 6.30am in the custom-built media village. This meeting is the largest single Presidency event to take place in Ireland, requiring additional media facilities.
In all, 282 journalists covered the Informal Ecofin over its two days – see some more Ecofin statistics in our feature “Ecofin by Numbers”.
At 8.15am, Chair of Ecofin and Irish Finance Minister, Michael Noonan, addressed the media ahead of the Eurogroup meeting chaired by Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem.
By lunchtime, the Eurogroup meeting had concluded, reaching an agreement on extension of maturities for Ireland and Portugal. This was agreed later that afternoon by all 27 Member States in Ecofin – see details here.
As the Eurogroup Chair held his press conference at the media conference centre (see video here), Ecofin Chair (Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan) welcomed non-Eurozone Ecofin members to Dublin Castle – see video here. Central Bank governors from EU Member States were also welcomed by Prof. Patrick Honohan, Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland.
At the same time, the first of 39 press conferences got underway as the Presidency, Commission and Member States reported on progress at the Informal. A dedicated Presidency team at the media conference centre managed the complex logistical and technical arrangements around these events.
After a working lunch on a number of key issues, a total of 68 EU Ministers and Central Bank governors assembled for the largest family photo of the Presidency – see it come together here.
Ecofin Chair Michael Noonan then reconvened Ecofin ministers in formal session for a discussion on Europe’s growth challenge, informed by this paper from think-tank Breugel – see tour de table video images here.
The media were then assembled for the Presidency/Commission Ecofin press conference with Minister Noonan, Commission VP Rehn, Commissioner Barnier and Jorg Asmussen of the ECB speaking. See the press conference here.
Following this press conference, the media were shown a 3-minute video on Ireland’s own work for stability, jobs and growth– “Ireland, in the Business of Recovery”.
This was immediately followed by a joint press conference of the Finance Ministers of Poland, Germany, France, UK, Italy and Spain on the issue of tax transparency. Other national press conferences and media interviews were conducted throughout the evening as formal business came to a close for the day.
The media village closed for the night at 23.30.
Saturday 13 April
Presidency and Dublin Castle staff were again in place from 5.30am for the second day of the Informal Ecofin, with the media village open at 6.30am and media assembled for Day 2 Ecofin arrival doorsteps at 8.30. See the arrivals here, as well as the tour de table video in the meeting room.
The first item on the Day 2 Ecofin agenda was a discussion on tax transparency and improving the fight against tax evasion, with Commissioner Šemeta among the main contributors to the debate. This was followed by a very constructive session on Banking Union and financial services, with progress in particular on the Single Supervisory Mechanism. Minister Noonan also chaired a special session on financing options for economic growth, in particular non-bank finance – see the Presidency’s paper here.
Bringing the Informal Ecofin to a close, the media village shut its doors at 18.15, with a total of 1042 litres of coffee and tea consumed there over the two days. All of this seemed to have the desired effect – the meeting was reported extensively by the 282 media of 26 nationalities, while video footage transmitted online and live by satellite was accessed in 69 countries.
Deconstruction of the media marquee commenced at 18.30.
Sunday 14 April
Minister Richard Bruton published an op-ed previewing the 17/18 April EU Trade Ministerial meeting and outlining the jobs and growth potential of the EU-US and other trade agreements for Europe. His op-ed can be seen here.
The Presidency’s communications team, Dublin Castle staff, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade staff and others assembled for final preparations ahead of the high-level “Hunger – Nutrition – Climate Justice 2013” conference – see its preview press release here.
Monday 15 April
In Brussels, progress on enlargement was made when the Presidency, on behalf of the Council of the European Union, agreed with Montenegro to open and provisionally close the second chapter in its negotiations under its EU accession process. See press release here.
The “Hunger – Nutrition – Climate Justice 2013” Conference got underway at Dublin Castle with opening media statements by Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore and by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and President of the Mary Robinson Foundation.
The purpose of the event was to bring together key policy makers and global thought leaders with local people and practitioners facing the realities of rising food prices, failed crops, undernutrition and voicelessness. President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, opened the conference – see his address and all other videos here.
On the margins of this event, Irish Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney and Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement between Ireland and the World Food Programme (WFP) involving a contribution of €21 million. Video from the event can be seen here.
Throughout the two days, the conference gains extensive coverage, e.g. on Irish national broadcaster RTE .
Tuesday 16 April
With the Presidency managing business across all policy areas in Brussels and Strasbourg, two Irish Ministers (Lucinda Creighton and Brian Hayes) had extensive programmes with the European Parliament with topics ranging from the EU Budget to Cyprus, Hungary, capital requirements for banks and others - see details here and Minister Creighton’s detailed programme of engagements here.
It was also the week of “Les Journées d’Irlande”, an event taking place in Strasbourg organised by the European Parliamentary Association (APE).
In Cork, Ireland, EU Fisheries Directors met to consider reforms of the Common Fisheries Policy – see the Presidency’s statement here.
The second day of the “Hunger – Nutrition – Climate Justice 2013” Conference involved former US Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore arriving to give a keynote address. Videos available here.
The event concluded with a press conference given by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Minister Joe Costello and Mary Robinson. This can be viewed here.
Wednesday 17 April
On a visit to Strasbourg, Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, addressed the European Parliament. His speech included references to Ireland’s Presidency and can be found here.
Agreement with the European Parliament was secured on an important piece of environmental legislation, concerning priority substances in water – see details here.
Delegations arrived for the Trade Ministers’ Informal, the first time an informal meeting EU Trade Ministers has taken place – the event was previewed here. Their evening programme included a meeting with outgoing World Trade Organisation Director-General, Pascal Lamy. M. Lamy also delivered a major address on trade and sustainable development at the Institute of Irish and European Affairs – the Presidency Communications team attended at this event and tweeted live from it, while M. Lamy’s speech is available here.
Thursday 18 April
The EU Trade Informal continued at Dublin Castle, with Minister Richard Bruton in the Chair – see his remarks to the media and the arrivals here. Media had assembled at the Dublin Castle media centre from 7.30am.
A particular focus of this meeting was the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States, with US Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs, Michael Froman, leading a US delegation at the meeting.
Minister Bruton reported on progress achieved at this important ministerial meeting at a joint press conference with EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. See this press conference and Minister Bruton’s press release here. Other delegations also held press briefings.
The conclusion of the Trade Ministerial was immediately followed by an EU-US Business Roundtable at Dublin Castle, an event formally associated with the Presidency. Participants from the EU and US business communities joined with Minister Bruton, Commissioner De Gucht and DNSA Michael Froman for a discussion on the potential offered by a trade deal. The Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, addressed this event later in the evening – his speech can be found here.
Also, the US Embassy to Ireland held their Annual Economic Conference, which was addressed on the subject of EU-US trade by the Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Enda Kenny – his speech can be found here.
And it didn’t stop there....
The following seven days (19-25 April) include the informal meetings in Dublin of Environment and Energy Ministers, while the General Affairs and Agriculture & Fisheries Councils are meeting in Luxembourg. Key talks continue on issues ranging from customs legislation to mortgage credit and the Multiannual Financial Framework.
The work goes on...