Top official David O'Sullivan warns on EU's future
THE successful conclusion of trade talks between the US and Europe is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to strengthen the world's greatest economic corridor, one of Ireland's top officials has said.
David O'Sullivan, who has recently been appointed the EU's ambassador to Washington, has been one of the top-ranking officials at EU level, serving as chief operating officer of the bloc's diplomatic corps. He will take up his post in September.
At a lecture last night organised by business lobby group IBEC, Mr O'Sullivan said the EU was living in an "unusually critical moment" in its integration.
Referring to the recent election results, he said change was not only possible, but essential for the survival of the European project.
He said the EU was working on a number of international trade deals – including the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – which, when completed, would make the EU the hub of the largest trading network ever seen.
"TTIP means much more than just a trade agreement. It is a substantial strategic opportunity for EU-US relations," Mr O'Sullivan said. "After the initial flush of enthusiasm which accompanied the launch of the talks, we are now witnessing the growth of questions and even opposition.
"We must not be afraid of this debate. We will need to engage and not allow some of the ill-informed and misplaced populist rhetoric to monopolise the discussion. In this context, the role of businesses in policy shaping is particularly important."
He said the EU would have to establish greater public ownership and a deeper sense of belonging. Brussels' image needs to improve, and a deeper sense of belonging be given to the people of Europe.
"Brussels needs to be more often acknowledged as a source of good news and not just the harbinger austerity and cutbacks," he said. He also said an EU without the UK would be a "diminished force".
"I hope that the new leadership of the EU which will be elected in the coming weeks will seize the opportunity to agree a policy agenda commensurate to the challenge.
"Business as usual is not the option. A new business model is indeed needed."