Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Bairbre de Brún European Union Ard Fheis Speech

27 February, 2004

Sinn Féin has a radical vision for the EU. It is a vision which seeks to restore Ireland‚s national sovereignty while at the same time operating on the basis of equals with other nations in the region - for our good and theirs.

Sinn Féin wants an EU of equals. A globally responsible EU. An economically and socially just EU.

We want to be part of an EU with institutions that promote national, collective and individual human rights. A Union that works towards full employment, housing, health and education for all its citizens. We want to build a Europe that leads the way in the cancellation of debt in the developing world, that is nuclear free, that protects the environment and that welcomes and trades fairly with other regions.

Unfortunately, this vision is far from the current reality. Instead we have an EU where more than 55 million people still face poverty and social exclusion. We have an EU where decision makers are more concerned with slamming shut the doors of Fortress Europe rather than dealing with the endemic poverty and conflicts that exist across the world and that drive refugees and others to seek a better life within the borders of the European Union.

But this Europe is not inevitable. It only reflects the political agenda of the most powerful in the EU - big business, the big states, and through them the Commission. It can change and it should be changed.

Sinn Féin will engage constructively but critically with the EU institutions. We do this not only because of our international vision but also because up to 70 per cent of the legislation across this island has its origins in the EU. Our agenda is broad ranging and demands a radical reform of the orientation of the European Union.

Sinn Féin put forward a 15-point plan of priorities for a positive progressive EU Presidency. While these points were aimed at pressing the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, to focus his term as president in a positive and progressive way, they also indicate Sinn Féin's broad agenda within the EU itself.

Among our key objectives are:

Global Social Justice

The initiation of a Global Social Justice Agenda (Dublin Agenda) equivalent to the Lisbon Agenda whose priorities would include UN reform and fulfilment of Millennium Development Goals including cancellation of developing country debt.

The initiation of a process for human rights proofing of all EU policies.

Economic Sovereignty

We need to confront the problems caused for particular Member States by the fact that some states are in and some are out of the Euro zone.

We need to press for a renegotiation of the Stability and Growth Pact in order to allow member states to deal effectively with the specific problems facing their own economies.

Revitalised Rural Economies

It is important that we ensure that CAP reform proposals agreed at Luxembourg in June 2003 are fully implemented, including full decoupling, and ensure that the accession states enter the CAP on an equal basis.

Likewise there is a need to establish a full range of complementary rural development programmes to aid farmers and rural communities in adapting to changes brought about by the CAP reforms.

We must also put complete reform of the Common Fisheries Policy on the EU agenda.

Environmental Protection

We must:

Campaign to make the EU a GM-free zone; and

Initiate a programme for targeted reduction of emissions on an EU wide basis.

Social Protection

There is a need:

To campaign against the EU privatisation programme in the Lisbon Agenda and for the defence of public services.

To push for EU-wide upwards harmonisation of workers‚ rights, including trade union recognition, workers‚ health and safety, and protections for temporary and migrant workers.

To prioritise commitments to eradicate poverty and homelessness within the EU.

To push for further EU equal rights instruments including a specific Gender Equality Directive and a Disability Directive; and

To initiate a process for equality and poverty proofing of all EU laws and policies.

Irish Language Rights

It is vital that Irish is recognised as an official and working language of the EU.

In addition to this broad-ranging, progressive agenda for change, Sinn Féin will also place our all-Ireland agenda at the heart of the EU. We are the only political party who organise on an all-Ireland basis, at every level of government and in every political institution on the island. We are the only party standing and intending to elect MEPs north and south of the island. This will put Sinn Féin in a key position to develop the all-Ireland agenda at the heart of the European Union.

Sinn Féin MEPs will also bring an added value to the EU. One of the central features of Sinn Féin's involvement in political institutions over the past 20 years has been the impact on the ways these institutions function. We have reversed the trends of bureaucracy, inequality and distance from ordinary people. We have done so because our political representatives approach their work as committed political activists, intent on bringing about social, economic, political and cultural change.

Sinn Féin will bring to the EU the same agenda for change and the same added value that we have brought to local and national government. Our focus will be on tackling bureaucracy, exclusion, inequality and discrimination. We will work to open up the institutions, making them more transparent and democratic. We will work to make the political institutions more real for people in their everyday life.

We believe that another Europe is possible and that electing Sinn Féin MEPs can make a difference. This June, Sinn Féin and the Irish electorate can elect - and I believe will elect - a number of Irish republican MEPs. That is the task in front of us. Working together across the island, we will build our party and strengthen our mandate for change both in Ireland and internationally. ENDS

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