Address By Minister for European Affairs Mr. Noel Treacy T.D. at the Development Board and Dublin City Council Conference
I am delighted to be here this evening and would like to thank both the Dublin City and its Development Board for inviting me to speak to you all. I must also congratulate them both on the organisation of such a conference. I am always very pleased to see further links being forged between this country and our friends in the new Member States of the European Union. I would like to welcome all of you who are visitors to Ireland and I hope you spend a most enjoyable, interesting and profitable time here with us.
As fellow members of the European Union, we have much in common, including an understanding of the economic, social and political benefits that EU membership can bring to us all. I know from discussions with my ministerial colleagues from the new Member States that there is a great awareness and interest in the benefits that Ireland has experienced as a result of EU membership. As new members, your countries have an exciting period of opportunity and development ahead. I hope that we, in this country, will be able to share our experiences with you all and assist you in any way that we can. We hope to develop the economic and social links between all of our countries further and to increase our prosperity together. I am particularly looking forward to hosting a meeting of my fellow Ministers of European Affairs from the new Member States, in Galway on 20 May, next at which we will share views and experiences of the first year of membership.
Whilst we know that the European Union has worked well for us, one must recognise that it is always possible to make improvements. The enlargement of the European Union has coincided with a period of review and stock-taking, firstly though the European Convention and then through the Intergovernmental Conference. This culminated in agreement on the European Constitution in June of 2004, at the end of Ireland's Presidency of the Union. My view is that the European Constitution makes the Union more accessible, more efficient and more democratic. And I believe that it provides an excellent framework for the future of the European Union and for its Member States, and that it is made all the more necessary following the very welcome enlargement of the European Union last year almost a year ago.
The EU Constitution sets out clearly which policies are dealt with by the European Union and which remain with the Member States. The inclusion of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Union's accession to the European Convention on Human Rights makes the rights of all of the citizens of the European Union much more visible and will enhance their protection in the years ahead.
The rationalisation of decision-making and the creation of the new posts of Union Foreign Minister and President of the European Council will improve the coherence of the European Union and its work, particularly in the foreign policy area.
The new roles given to national Parliaments means that they now have the capacity to intervene in relation to legislative proposals which are considered inappropriate. These measures bring European law closer to the public through the engagement of national politics in a national forum and that is a welcome step towards greater democratic accountability.
I must congratulate Hungary, Lithuania and Slovenia on their early ratification of the EU Constitution. It is welcome that the front runners in ratification terms come from the countries which joined last year. Ireland will hold a referendum on this issue, possibly later this year, during which I will be vigorously campaigning for a yes vote. I firmly believe that, just as enlargement is good for Europe, is good for Ireland, and of course good for your countries, so too will the Constitution be good for Europe, good for us, and yes, good for you too. So I look forward to all countries ratifying it during the years ahead.
Finally, in wishing you all the best with your conference tomorrow, I hope that you enjoy your time here sufficiently to return home safely and encourage your compatriots to come and visit the Island of Ireland, as soon as possible.