Congratulations offered as Ireland takes over EU Presidency

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  By Martin Kelly
 
The  SNP  has  today congratulated  the  Republic  of  Ireland  after  it  assumed  the  6-month  rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
 
Becoming the latest small country to hold the position, Ireland with a population of 4.6 million people  takes  over  from  Cyprus which has  a  population  of  only  around  one  million  people.

Ireland will hold the role until July when it will be succeeded by Lithuania, which has a population of just 3 million and like Cyprus became a Member State in 2004.
 
Ireland’s main priorities during its presidency will be to reach agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework, CAP reform and a number of other issues of importance to the whole of the EU.
 
Despite having  a  population  less  than  that  of  Scotland,  Ireland  sends  12  MEPs  to  the European Parliament, compared to just 6 from Scotland.  In addition, it receives a net annual  budget  contribution  significantly  higher  than  that  of  Scotland  through  the  Common Agricultural Policy.
 
UK Prime  Minister  David  Cameron  has  already  said  how  much  he  is  looking  forward  to Ireland taking over the Presidency – pledging to work closely across a range of interests – demonstrating how neighbouring countries can co-operate on shared priorities.

Commenting, SNP MEP Alyn Smith said:
 
“I congratulate the Republic of Ireland and look forward to working with them over the next few months on our shared priorities.
 
“Ireland last took over the presidency during the first half of 2004 – one of the most crucial periods in the EU’s history, as ten new countries joined at once.
 
“This  time  around,  it  will  preside  over  negotiations  in  the  Council  on  the  finalisation  of  the Multiannual Financial Framework and attempt to lead an agreement on CAP reform, as well as continue discussion on CFP reform and the Horizon 2020 framework.

“All of these issues are of direct national importance to Ireland – as they are to Scotland – yet the key difference is that Ireland will be able to directly represent its own interests at the top of the top table.”

Mr Smith challenged the view that an independent Scotland’s position in the EU would be weakened by independence and added:

“What all of the anti-independence parties have repeatedly failed to mention during recent debates on Scotland’s position in the EU, is that Scotland has a very strong hand in its own right and would be a key  player  in  the  EU. 

“We have the  majority  of  the  EU’s  oil  and  gas reserves,  a  quarter  of  its  renewable  energy  potential,  fish  rich  seas  and  the  10th   and  11th biggest  financial  centres  in  the  EU  –  but  it  is  currently  left  to  Westminster  to  represent  our interests.
 
“However  what  we  have  also  seen  in  recent  weeks  are  Scots  beginning  to  focus  on  the what,  when  and  how  of  Scotland  securing  its  interests  as  an  EU  nation  –  we  are  already beginning to think like an independent country. Scotland – as well as the whole of the British Isles – will be better represented in the EU as a member in its own right.

“Scotland  has  already  proven  itself  to  be  a  leader  in  so  many  ways  –  not  least  through  its world-leading and widely praised climate change legislation – just think what we could do as an independent nation within the EU.”
 
Ireland’s new role follows news that the UK may end up with a second-class status in the EU following proposals from senior politicians in Brussels.

Reports that the UK could be downgraded to “associate member” status follows apparent frustration at continued complaining from London.  Such a move would mean the UK losing much of its influence in the EU.

Last week former EU President Jacque Delors signalled that the UK’s relationship with the EU could loosen as a result of the British government’s reluctance to agree to more integration.  He accused the Westminster government of having no concern over the economic interests of other EU members and thinking only of themselves.

“…the British are solely concerned about their economic interests, nothing else.

“They could be offered a different form of partnership.” he said.

Mr Delors envisaged a situation whereby the UK would be seen as a “privileged partner” which would allow a new free trade agreement to be put in place.