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Irish EU Presidency in 2004

Bertie Ahern T.D., Taoiseach"Europeans - Working Together" - Address by the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic
Pronunciation: 'ti:ʃəx
, Mr. Bertie Ahern, T.D., to the European Parliament (abridged)

Date: 14 Jan 2004
Source: www.eu2004.ie

Mr. President, honourable members of the European Parliament, President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen. It is both an honour and a pleasure to be here today to present to you the priorities for the Irish Presidency.

We have chosen "Europeans - Working Together" as the theme of our Presidency. It is a theme which captures a vision of the people of the European Union working as a partnership, striving together to achieve our common goals and objectives. We need the cooperation of everyone to achieve our ambitions. I know that I can count on the members of the European Parliament to work with us during our term for the greater good of the European Union.

This is Ireland's sixth Presidency. We are taking on our task at an historic and challenging time, but we have prepared well for what lies ahead.

There is important work to be done. As Europeans working together, we must ensure that the Union can take advantage of the global economic recovery. We must create an environment which fosters more and better jobs for our people.

We must take the measures necessary to allow our citizens to live and move freely throughout the European Union in safety and security. And we must ensure that the Union can play a positive and constructive role in the world.

The Irish Presidency has begun in a Union of 15 Member States and will end in a Union of 25. It is a particular privilege to hold the Presidency at a time when history is being made. We greatly look forward to welcoming the new members of the family at an official ceremony in Dublin on the 1st of May.

We plan to make this a real community welcome in Ireland. Community cultural events are being organised and real local involvement and international exchange will occur. We believe that the diversity of Europe's cultural heritage is something to be shared and celebrated.

We want the formal enlargement of the European Union to be as smooth and successful as possible. Making enlargement work is of the greatest possible importance to us. Integrating the new Member States and ensuring that the Council continues to function effectively will be a high priority.

We will press forward with the future enlargement agenda. We will prioritise work in relation to Romania and Bulgaria with the aim of concluding negotiations in 2004.

We also welcome Turkey's efforts to fulfil the necessary criteria with a view to a decision to be taken at the European Council next December. I am convinced that the accession of Cyprus continues to provide the context for a comprehensive settlement, which would enable the accession of a united island on the 1st of May. We welcome the signs of progress in recent days. As Presidency, we will support fully the central role of the United Nations Secretary General in this process. I urge all parties in the period ahead to demonstrate conclusively their commitment to negotiating a settlement on the basis of his proposals.

Six months is not a long time. But I promise you an Irish Presidency that will not stint in its efforts to achieve as much as is possible in this time. I greatly look forward to cooperating closely with our partners and with the institutions of the Union, especially with the European Parliament.

Our agenda is demanding and complex. We have begun our work with ambition and humility. We call on everyone to help us with this challenging task. We know that, as Europeans, our strength is in our unity. We achieve more, and we are at our best, as "Europeans - Working Together".