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British EU Presidency huge concern for farmers, environmentalists and those seeking Europe of equals

1 July, 2005

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today said that many people will be worried by the British Presidency of the EU, and in particular farmers across Ireland.

Ms de Brún also said that her party will be "tracking the British Presidency over the next six months to ensure that it addresses the concerns many people have with the current direction of the EU". Ms de Brún made her comments as the British Government assumed the six month rotating Presidency of the European Union.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"The British Government has an enormous responsibility in assuming the Presidency of the European Union for the next six months. They must use this opportunity to assuage the fears which many people have in their assuming the EU Presidency, including farmers, environmentalists and those who seek to create a more progressive Europe.

"Mr Blair's recent comments that CAP could be renegotiated in a quid pro quo for flexibility on the British rebate will concern Irish farmers. Re-negotiation of CAP would be devastating for farmers across Ireland. The British Government may not care much for Irish agriculture or rural communities, but those who work in the sector will wait the next six months with concern and trepidation.

"The controversy and power plays which have arisen between European Leaders on the European Constitution, British rebate and CAP should not be allowed to detract from the pursuit of a Europe of equals. Sinn Féin is calling upon the British Presidency to seize the opportunity to press for a progressive social justice agenda in the next six months, and to promote positive initiatives on socio-economic, political and human rights.

"Whilst I recognize that each member state only holds the Presidency for a six month period, past presidencies have followed the agenda of promoting economic growth whilst largely ignoring social and environmental considerations. We require a Europe which protects its most vulnerable citizens. For too long, the EU has been obsessed with appeasing the agenda of big business and the larger, militarily superior states. Sinn Féin believes that a change of direction is required.

"Over this past number of weeks, momentum has been building across the globe through protest movements and NGO organizations calling for a strategy to tackle extreme poverty and the destruction of our environment. Within the enlarged EU itself, approximately 68 million people are living in abject poverty. These are the priorities which the British Government must focus upon.

"Sinn Féin also believes that the British Presidency should promote a visible social inclusion strategy and prioritise initiatives which seek to promote social protections, including workers rights. It should also reverse the trend toward increasing privatization and move to secure the future of quality public services, particularly in relation to health and education.

"Sinn Féin will be tracking the British Presidency over the next six months to ensure that it addresses the above priorities. Time will tell whether or not the British are up to the challenge." ENDS

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