No-frills presidency on cards for capital
EUROPEAN bureaucrats and politicians will be given tap water and encouraged to get around Dublin on rental bikes to minimise expenses as Ireland hosts the EU presidency next year.
Delegates will be offered free passes for the hugely successful Dublinbikes scheme, in the hope this will lead to fewer chauffeur-driven cars being used.
While it is unlikely government ministers will be seen cycling through the streets of the capital, lower ranking officials are expected to take up the offer of free access to the bicycles.
The Dublinbikes scheme was introduced in 2009 with 550 bikes available at 44 rental stations scattered around the city,.
Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton, pictured above right, said that encouraging European delegates to use the free bikes scheme would be both convenient and cost-cutting.
"Delegates will be staying close to the city centre, which will give them the opportunity to avail themselves of free access to Dublinbikes," said Ms Creighton.
"The proximity to the city will also allow visitors to experience Dublin city and I hope that most will avail themselves of that opportunity."
Politicians will also get tap water instead of bottled water at meetings while gifts and stationery supplies will also be cut back as part of the austerity measures.
Hosting the EU presidency in 2004 cost the State an estimated €110m. However, Ms Creighton said she would like to cut costs to about €60m this time around.
Organisers have also tried to ensure the six-month term is as paperless as possible – both to save money and reduce the presidency's carbon footprint.
Video conferencing between Dublin and Brussels in the run-up to the term, which begins on January 1, has resulted in a reduction in the number of files and documents being used.
And the host broadcaster has plans to transmit its footage digitally – to save on using tapes.
"Large volume handbooks will not be printed in hard copy, nor will the main presidency programme," Ms Creighton said.
"All documents will be available for download on the presidency website."
Dublin Castle will serve as the headquarters for most EU presidency-related events while Farmleigh in Dublin's Phoenix Park and other facilities owned by the Office of Public Works will also serve as venues.
Meanwhile, budget airline Ryanair announced that the State has accepted its offer of guaranteed low fares and other perks on flights between Brussels and Dublin for the duration of the six-month presidential term.
Politicians, diplomats and others on official business here will be able to take advantage of €49.99 one-way fares on the daily return flights between the two cities as well as free flight changes and dedicated assistance desks for officials at Dublin and Brussels Charleroi airports.