Fabian Demicoli

The Irish presidency priorities


GRTU President Paul Abela and EU Desk Coordinator
Abigail Mamo have attended a seminar organised by MEUSAC in conjunction with
the Irish presidency. Ireland has at the beginning of this year taken over the
Presidency of the Council of the European Union opening the first part of a
trio presidency followed by Lithuania in July and later by Greece. This is the
7th presidency for Ireland since it joined the EU in 1973. Ireland plans to
have 1600 meeting chaired by the presidency, these only counting the official
visits.

During the seminar it was emphasized that bilateral
collaboration between Malta and Ireland have never been so strong and close.
Malta will also have the Presidency in the first half of 2017, in 4 years time,
and Ireland has already offered its support to Malta for this preparation.

Paul Abela intervened saying that the percentage of
SMEs in Malta is very high and as an organization representing SMEs we strive
to have Government adopt a package of incentives tailor made for our SMEs.
Today we have a good number of incentives in place and we call on the Irish
Presidency to back and encourage such incentives. Mr Abela also said that the
‘one size fits all' must be questioned at all legislative stages and the irish
Presidency must champion the ‘Think Small First principle'.

In reply the Irish Ambassador sympathised with the
GRTU president saying that Irish companies are all very small and therefore
small is in their DNA therefore and they are therefore naturally inclined to
understand the importance of SME activity. He continued saying that SME are
vital in their thinking and they will during the Presidency focus on finance
mechanisms through COSME and better regulation.

The Irish Presidency can be summed up in a simple
phrase "Stability, jobs and growth".

Securing stability

Banking Union: The imperative to break the link
between banks and sovereigns was unanimously agreed by European leaders. The Presidency will push for agreement on the
Banking Union proposals including the first important step of adopting the
Single Supervisory Mechanism, which will open up the way for the ESM to
directly re-capitalize banks, starting in 2014.
Further steps on deposit guarantees and resolution mechanisms will
follow.

European Semester: Effective management of the
EU's new system of budgetary and economic coordination, the "European
Semester", will be an important focus of the Irish Presidency. This will ensure better coordination and
management of our economies.

"Two-Pack": The "Two-Pack" aims to further
enhance the co-ordination and surveillance for the budgetary processes for the
euro area. Ireland will work to secure agreement on the negotiations now at
their last stage in the EP.

Financial Services: The Presidency will manage
the busy financial services agenda. In particular there will be a focus on
reaching agreement on the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive and
Regulation (MiFID/MiFIR) which seeks to harmonise access to and activity of
investment firms. Ireland will also make progress on other dossiers in the
consumer area, including the Mortgage Credit Directive.

MFF: The Presidency will support President Van
Rompuy in reaching agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). Once Council agreement is secured on the
overall MFF, the Presidency will seek to secure the consent of the European Parliament.
In parallel Ireland will lead negotiations on almost 70 legislative measures
which will deploy the MFF (eg Horizon 2020, CAP, and Cohesion).

Ensuring
the conditions for job creation and sustainable growth

Youth Unemployment: The Presidency will work to
advance proposals to help turn the tide on youth joblessness. The Youth
Employment Package includes a "Youth Guarantee" aimed at setting principles to
help ensure that young people who are not working or studying, receive an offer
of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship. The
Presidency aims to make significant progress on the Youth Guarantee. The issue
of youth unemployment will be the main focus at the Informal Ministerial
meeting of Employment and Social Affairs Ministers in Dublin in February 2013.

Labour Mobility: The Presidency will work to
remove obstacles in the way of worker mobility. This includes reaching a First
Reading Agreement on the rules for the Posting of Workers. Ireland will also
work to reach a General Approach in June on the Supplementary Pensions Rights
Directive. In addition the Presidency will work to progress legislation to
strengthen the supports to mobile workers.

Professional Qualifications: The Presidency
will work to achieve agreement on the Proposal on the Recognition
ofProfessional Qualifications in order to facilitate greater labour mobility
for skilled workers.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs): SMEs are
the key driver of jobs and growth in Europe. The Presidency will host an informal
meeting of Competitiveness Ministers in May on the theme of "SMEs as a driver
of European Growth". The Presidency is seeking to secure agreement on
the Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME) which
aims to provide targeted support for the sector. In addition the Presidency
will promote the Smart Regulation agenda as well as the Company Law
(Accounting) Directive which will reduce the administrative burden on
microenterprises and SMEs.

Single Market: The Single Market has been one
of the EU's greatest success stories. 500 million consumers need a fully
functioning and open single market.
Ireland will work to further unlock that great potentialthrough
completing the dossiers that remain open under the Single Market Act I
(professional qualifications, labour mobility, accounting, auditing measures,
intellectual property measures including copy-right, trade market regulations,
public procurement directives, product safety and market surveillance). We will prioritise progress on actions in the
Single Market Act II as they are published by the Commission.

Digital Single Market: Only by embracing the
digital revolution can the EU hope to compete globally in the 21st century.
Growth in the digital economy will promote cross-border commerce and improve
competitiveness, delivering long-term advantages for business and consumers
alike. The focus of the Presidency will be on measures that support the digital
economy. These measures range from legislation on intellectual property rights,
cyber security, e-signatures Identification to high-speed broadband rollout and
web accessibility.

Data Protection: As part of its focus on the
Digital Agenda, the Presidency will work to reach agreement in the Council on
key aspects of the Data Protection package. Progress made by the Presidency in
this area will strengthen confidence in the digital economy and support the
growth of the Digital Single Market.

Horizon 2020: In the context of overall
agreement on the MFF, the Presidency is aiming for agreement on Horizon 2020,
the EU framework programme for research and innovation.

Trade: Europe's recovery cannot happen in
isolation. Ireland will prioritise trade agreements with key partners and work
towards opening new markets and creating new opportunities for enterprise,
leading to more jobs and growth. The Presidency will place a special focus on
the EU-US trade relationship, with the aim of working towards a formal Council
mandate for the start of negotiations on a new comprehensive EU-US Free Trade
and Investment Agreement

Public Procurement: Public authorities across
the EU spend approximately €2 trillion per annum on the procurement of goods,
services and works. Revised public procurement proposals aim to increase
theefficiency of public spending to ensure the best procurement outcomes in
terms of value for money, by making the existing rules more simple, flexible
and user-friendly. The Presidency will work towards securing agreement with the
European Parliament on the proposals.

Intellectual Property (IP): IP is the
cornerstone of any competitive modern economy, especially in today's global
market. The Irish Presidency will seek maximum progress on copyright,
trademarks and patents.

Connecting Europe Facility (CEF): Sustainable
and interconnected transport, energy and digital networks are priorities for
Europe's social and economic development. The CEF will determine how the
Union's resources will be invested across transport, energy and telecommunications/digital
infrastructures. The Presidency will prioritise the CEF and also a number of
the individual proposals which will make connecting Europe a reality.

Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): The proposed
reform of the CAP will be of central importance in shaping the future
development of the agriculture and food sector in Europe. CAP reform can also
make an important contribution to delivering smart, sustainable and inclusive
growth in Europe. The agriculture sector is of critical importance to the EU and
the Presidency will place a very strong emphasis on securing agreement on CAP
reform.

Common Fisheries Policy (CFP): Ireland attaches
great importance to a sustainable fisheries policy for Europe. A reformed CFP
can contribute greatly to sustainability through better management of fish
stocks, ensuring that the EU's waters are protected for future generations. The
Presidency will work to reach agreement with the European Parliament on the CFP
reform package.

Integrated Maritime Policy: As an island nation,
Ireland attaches strong importance to maritime issues and the potential for
growth in a diverse range of areas including sustainable fisheries, marine
transport, renewable energy, biotechnology, mineral seabed exploration, tourism
and regional development. The Irish Presidency will build on the development of
an EU integrated Maritime Policy (IMP). The Presidency will work to advance the
proposal on Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) which aims to balance the interests
of different sectors to ensure efficient and sustainable use of Member States'
precious marine resources. It will work to advance the implementation of the
"Blue Growth" initiative. Ireland also looks forward to making progress on the
endorsement of an action plan for the Atlantic Strategy to further consolidate
and develop work in this area.

7th Environment Action Programme (EAP): The
proposed 7th EAP sets out the priority objectives for EU environment policy for
the next ten years, grounded in an ambitious vision for an inclusive, green and
competitive European economy that safeguards the environment. The Presidency
considers the 7th EAP to be of critical importance for Europe's future, and
will work to finalise agreement with the European Parliament.

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