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Speech by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar T.D. at EPP Congress

Delivered in Bucharest on Thursday, March 7th 2024

7th March 2024 - Fine Gael Press Office

A dhuine uaisle, A chairde


Is mise Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach agus Uachtaráin Fhine Gael. Ta áthas orm a bheith anseo i mBucharest inniú agus tá sé iontach a bheith le chéile arís.


There is nothing wrong with your translation!  That’s the Irish language – or Gaelic – way of saying it’s great to join you again today.  Irish is an official language of the European Union and that’s proof positive that the European Union is a place where national identities and diversity are protected and allowed to thrive. 


 This my fourth Congress as Party President.  I attended my first in Berlin, as Vice-President of the Youth of the European Peoples’ Party, 25 years ago.  Our Party President at the time was John Bruton who died earlier this year.  I want to thank you all for kind messages of condolence.  He was a great European and a strong supporter of this great party. 


It is also great to be here as one of 12 heads of state or government, many more than we had at our last Congress.  With the real possibility a victory in Portugal in a few weeks’ time, the EPP is rising again and Donald’s victory in Poland show us that the populists can be defeated.   


Now, we must retain our place as the leading party in the European Parliament at the elections in June.



I’d like to wish Ursula every success as she goes forward again as our candidate to be President of the European Commission.


Ursula, your leadership and stewardship of the European Commission – on Covid and Ukraine, on migration and on climate and nature – speaks for itself. 


We need you leading the Commission for the next five years.


I also want to thank you for your firm support for Ireland on Brexit and your willingness to find compromises and accommodations with our British friends where necessary.


1. EPP and forthcoming elections

Dear friends, the challenges facing us have rarely been greater. We face big issues that require a big response. They transcend the capability of national governments.  We need Europe and Europe’s work has never mattered more.


Our values resonate now more than ever: democracy, freedom, opportunity, enterprise, equality and fairness.


My party, Fine Gael, shares these values.


2. Social Market Economy

I believe improved terms and conditions for workers go hand-in-hand with employment growth and help us to recruit and retain the skilled staff we need for the 21st century.


In Ireland, we’ve been making great strides in building a real Social Market Economy in which work pays and enterprise is rewarded.

Statutory Sick Pay, improved family leave, halving the cost of childcare and pension reform – these are just some of the reforms we are introducing – and yet wages have never been higher, and we have more jobs than ever before.


Colleagues, the Single Market is one of Europe’s best achievements, but it is also an unfinished project, with unfulfilled potential.


We in the EPP can ensure the EU does more over the next five years to promote growth, entrepreneurship and innovation among our SMEs. To unleash the potential of the Single Market and Capital Market Union.


This requires State intervention, but also restraint from the State when needed to ensure a level-playing field.


Our trade policy must encompass a fair deal for farmers, fishers, and food producers.


And the budget for the next Common Agriculture Policy needs to be a bigger one and we need a separate fund for nature.  The EPP should always be the party for Europe’s farmers.


3. Middle-East

We live in a time of turmoil in our world.


We were all horrified by the indiscriminate and brutal attacks by Hamas on the 7th October. We share the outrage of the Israeli people over these attacks. There is no justification. No excuse. No context that makes it anything other than a crime and an atrocity.


We have since then seen appalling violence inflicted by the Israeli Government on the people of Gaza. Palestinian civilians are not responsible for the crimes of Hamas and should not be subject to collective punishment. 


We need a ceasefire, so food and medicine can get into Gaza, and we need the immediate release of all of the hostages. We also need the European Union to engage in the fight for a permanent peace between Israel and Palestine and Arab countries.


We as Europeans have a duty to bring this conflict to an end, to bring peace to the Holy Land.


4. Ukraine

For over two years we have witnessed the brutal Russian assault on the people on Ukraine.


Colleagues, Ireland is at the edge of western Europe, but we have opened our hearts and doors to the people of Ukraine.


I do not believe that Putin’s ambitions will stop at Ukraine. This is our war too and it’s not just happening on Ukraine’s territory. It’s happening all around us, in our seas, and in the form of physical and cyber attacks. As one of my forebears said, a Europe worth building is a Europe with defending. We should do so by developing PESCO in particular.


The EPP’s message must be that we stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes. Our message to the Kremlin is that Russia cannot win this war and we will do more to help Ukraine in the coming months and years. That involves military assistance, finance, humanitarian and political support. 


The people in Ukraine are fighting, sacrificing their lives for European values. Fighting for democracy, liberty and the rule of law.


The least we can do is provide them with the tools they need to defend their country and their homes – and progress EU accession negotiations as quickly as possible.


We are the EPP. We stand for democracy. We stand for freedom. We stand by Ukraine. We stand for Europe.


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