Sie lesen aktuell unserer Archiv. Die aktuelle Webseite befindet sich unter:
You are currently reading our archive. The current webseite is located at:

IEP Lunch Debate with Micheál Martin: “After Lisbon: What’s next for Europe?”

Micheál Martin and Mathias Jopp

“After Lisbon: What’s next for Europe?“ was the theme of the speech by Irish Foreign Minister Martin at the IEP Lunch Debate and the following discus­sionon 28 April 2010 in the European House, Berlin. Martin addressed, from the Irish perspective, the insti­tu­tional changes to the EU resulting from the Treaty of Lisbon, European foreign relations and the handling of the current economic and financial crisis. In doing so he provided a glimpse into Irish policy including the strategy for dealing with the economic crisis and the background of the Irish referenda on the Treaty of Lisbon.

Using the example of German reuni­fi­cation, Martin showed that the European community has faced many difficult challenges in its history. Despite its many successes of and the advance­ments made by the Treaty of Lisbon, there will always be new challenges facing the EU. Examples include the economic crisis, the challenges of climate change and the closing of European airspace in April 2010. Ongoing revisions to EU agenda will always be necessary, according to Martin, so that the changes that have already been made do not lose relevance. It is also important that collective challenges are met with collective solutions. The Treaty of Lisbon provides mecha­nisms for such collective action.

Looking back on the first Irish refer­endum on the Treaty of Lisbon, Foreign Minister Martin illus­trated the impor­tance of consulting citizens on EU problems and of educating them about the EU. Doubts and concerns about policy cannot be ignored; instead, solutions to these issues must be found. Public debate about problems of the EU must remain an ongoing conver­sation, not just something that occurs prior to the ratifi­cation of new treaties.

Martin also offered his positive assessment of the European insti­tu­tions that were reformed when the Treaty of Lisbon went into effect. The European Council is functioning well under the leadership of new president Herman van Rompuy. The estab­lishment of the office of High Repre­sen­tative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the appointment thereto of Catherine Ashton were lauded by Martin, along with the estab­lishment of the European External Action Service (EEAS). He also sees the increased cooper­ation by the European Parliament and national parlia­ments at the European level a good sign for the democ­ratic basis for the EU.

The Irish Foreign Minister also was pleased with the EU’s management of the financial crisis. The economic recovery plan for growth and jobs, the strength­ening of bank oversight and the appro­pri­ation of liquidity through the European Central Bank are all seen by Martin as important steps in facing the crisis.

He explained that the new Europe 2020 strategy, which concen­trates on sustainable growth, job creation and research and devel­opment, is aligned with Irish policy. According to Martin, Ireland was affected to a great extent by the crisis due to its economic openness. This caused high unemployment, lower tax revenue and diffi­culties in the banking sector. These resulted in painful but necessary political solutions including public spending cuts and wage reduc­tions for public employees. The Irish strategy to deal with the crisis consists of a recap­i­tal­ization in the banking system in the form of guarantees along with the estab­lishment of a new agency, the “Central Bank Commission”, to oversee stability in the financial sector.

To preserve its long-term strength in the export economy, Ireland has concen­trated on building a “Smart Economy.” Just as in the Europe 2020 strategy, the Irish strategy empha­sizes research, devel­opment and a business-friendly climate. Ireland’s strategy in facing the crisis, Martin suggested, could also be seen as a microcosm of what should occur at the EU level. The crisis highlighted the close inter­de­pen­dence of the European economies. For this reason, work must be done at the EU level to remove obstacles which may hinder the full imple­men­tation of a European domestic market.

Moving along to the EU external affairs, Martin highlighted the success of European devel­opment aid. Through EU expansion, freedom and democracy have been spread to a broad area of Europe. At the end of the Cold War the stabi­lizing role of the EU, despite being neither a military alliance nor a super­power in the inter­na­tional system, became very important. The EU is well-positioned to face the challenges of today’s world.

The Treaty of Lisbon provides the EU with a common foreign and security policy and thereby an oppor­tunity to create civil and military forces which will assist in the pursuit of goals such as peace­keeping and conflict prevention. This will allow the EU to react better than ever to inter­na­tional conflicts and insta­bility.  As examples for such potential action Martin named, among others, the war in Afghanistan, the nuclear threat of Iran and the unresolved problems in the southern Caucasus.

The Irish Foreign Minister highlighted that Europe must speak with one voice on issues of inter­na­tional affairs and policy areas like climate change and energy security. By doing so, the EU can prove to be a key force in efforts for global peace and security. According to Martin, it is important to realize that individual member states cannot solve global problems on their own. To get at the roots of conflicts, the community must stand for equality in the world order. A strong stance is also important when dealing with questions of the inter­na­tional economic system.

Here Martin empha­sized that the impor­tance of the EU is growing, and that one lesson of the financial crisis was that the Europeans need to work together. The next task for Europe is to effec­tively use the tools provided by the Treaty of Lisbon to work on the problems of the 21st century.

In conclusion, Martin reiterated that there have been adequate insti­tu­tional changes in the EU. Now the challenge is to make these reformed insti­tu­tions work as well as possible for the citizens of the EU. It is important to have an ongoing dialog with EU citizens regarding the impor­tance of European integration in their daily lives. Improved commu­ni­cation with the public will be crucial in facing the great challenges of the future.

By Anthony Baumann