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de Brún Calls for Greater Focus on Impact of EU on Six Counties

19 February, 2004

Speaking today at the Queens University sponsored European Liaison Seminar Series, Sinn Féin spokesperson on European Affairs Bairbre de Brún has called for a greater focus on the impact of the EU on the day-to-day lives of people across the Six Counties.

Speakers in the debate include Evelyn Collins from the Equality Commission and Seamus McAleavey of NICVA.

Ms de Brún called on politicians, statutory and voluntary bodies and the media to do more to ensure that people here have a real voice in EU affairs.

Ms de Brún said:

"Up to 70% of all legislation affecting the North of Ireland originates in the EU. Despite this fact, many organisations and people only come to understand the impact of this when it comes to implementing the legislation locally. In other parts of the EU there is a substantial and lively engagement with EU issues well before the eventual passing of laws in national or regional parliaments.

"There is a great need for a more open and democratic engagement with the role played by the EU in the lives of ordinary people here. Politicians have a crucial role in advocating and publicising key issues which affect the ordinary citizen, whether they be the future of structural or community support funding, equality measures or the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

"Equally the media have a valuable contribution to make, by giving greater prominence to EU issues. We need to be discussing issues while they are in the early stages of development, rather than after the decision has been made. This will enable citizens to input into policy making in a more meaningful way.

"The Women's Sector and the Farming Community here are clearly ahead of other sectors in their level of engagement, and offer a model for others to follow. However this kind of activity requires support and resourcing if the interests of communities are to be promoted and protected in Brussels and Strasbourg.

"For too long, people here have paid too little attention to the impact of the EU locally. In light of the ongoing negotiations on the EU constitution and the impact of enlargement this attitude needs to change." ENDS

Note to Editors: The seminar is organised by the QUB Centre for European Studies, will take place on Thursday 19th Feburary in the Senate Room, QUB, Belfast from 11am.

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