independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Low-key presidency to cost €33m less than 2004

THE Irish EU presidency is going to cost a third less than the previous one.

The six-month presidency, which begins in January, is going to be run on a much reduced budget.

Most events will take place in Dublin rather than the previous practice of hosting meetings around the country.

Security costs will be reduced because there will be no gatherings of world leaders like there were during the 2004 Irish presidency when then US President George Bush and all 27 EU leaders flew in.

Junior Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton said it would be a low-key presidency focused on delivering concrete results.

"Certainly there won't be the pomp and ceremony you would have seen in the past. I'm not sure it would send the right signal to have black Mercedes sweeping through the streets of Dublin," she said.

The cost of hosting 180 EU Presidency events and looking after 15,000 delegates will be around €60m. When security costs are added in, the final bill will be under €77m. That will be one-third less than the €110m cost of the 2004 presidency.

Although the Polish Government spent €120m on its recent EU presidency, most member states have been reducing their spend at a time of budget cutbacks.

During the presidency, the Government will hold a series of public meetings around the country to mark the 'EU Year of the Citizen. They will feature ministers and prominent personalities as guest speakers, with opportunities for the public to give their views.

The Government will also be pressing for a deal on our €64bn bank debt. But a source said it would not "abuse its position" because other EU countries would stop co-operating if Ireland was concentrating too much on its own agenda.

Key tasks involve solving the row over the €1 trillion EU budget and getting agreement on a single supervisor for all the eurozone banks.

But the Government is also going to try to make real progress on a free trade deal between the EU and USA, which has been stalled for 20 years. The Irish Farmers Association and business groups say it has huge potential for economic growth – with estimates that it could increase EU and US GDP by 2pc within five years.

There are big expectations of the Irish presidency, at EU level, given that the country has successfully hosted six of them. And the pressure to get deals done has intensified because the role has been largely held over the past three years by countries doing it for the first time. In June, it will be taken over by another "first time" country – Lithuania.

Irish Independent

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