President von der Leyen’s plan is ambitious but achievable – Doherty

-   Regina Doherty

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s plan for the future of the European Union is ambitious but is one which can be achieved through cooperation and solidarity, Fine Gael Senator Regina Doherty has said.

The Leader of Seanad Éireann was speaking as Ms von der Leyen delivered her first State of the European Union address this morning.

Senator Doherty took part in a panel discussion this morning with the Institute of International & European Affairs along with UCC Political Scientist Dr. Mary C. Murphy, and David O’Sullivan, former Ambassador of the European Union to the United States.

Senator Doherty said, “In the President’s address this morning, she covered a huge variety of the challenges the European Union faces and laid out more of her commissions’ proposals to solve them. In a passionate and energetic speech, we saw her defend the Withdrawal and Good Friday Agreements, condemn various human rights violations and challenge all 27 individual Governments to double down on combatting harmful emissions.

“While upping our greenhouse gas emissions reduction target from 40% to 55% won’t be a popular call in many corners of Europe, it must be seen in the context of the wider European Green Deal. This includes higher quality food, higher quality of life, modern transport systems, 1 million new green jobs, and a just transition fund for all Europeans. The green deal is about reconciling our economy with our planet, and I believe EU level is where this is best and most fairly achieved.

“What was also apparent and will come as a relief to many, is a reaffirmation of the support Ireland has at the highest level of the European Union. Ireland was mentioned three times during the address, once in the context of the EU’s total and unambiguous support for the continuation of peace on this island, and total opposition to any measure or country that threatens this. Second was a warm reference to Suadd Alshleh, who is currently studying medicine in the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin after she was awarded a scholarship three years after arriving to Ireland from Syria. Lastly, we heard a really lovely tribute to the late John Hume, who the President describes, as a truly great European.

“The Commission President has set a number of new targets across a wide range of aspects of European life, from an increase in human rights protections, tackling racism, further targeted and specific climate action measures and a greater move into the ‘digital decade’.

“It’s up to us now, as Irish legislators, industry and representative groups to come together to find the best and most efficient ways to meet these targets as a country that takes pride in our EU membership,” Senator Doherty concluded.

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