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Mary Lou McDonald urges new Austrian EU Presidency to commit to addressing poverty and social exclusion

5 January, 2006

Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today called upon the Austrian Presidency of the European Union 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'.

Ms McDonald made her calls as Austria embarked upon its six month rotating Presidency of the EU at the beginning of January.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"The EU Presidency has now been assumed by the Austrian Government and people across Europe will be watching with interest to see how they will use their term in office. 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.

"The Austrian Presidency must use the time ahead to promote an alternative type of Europe which promotes a visible social inclusion strategy and prioritizes initiatives which seek to promote social protections, including workers rights. It should also reverse the trend toward increasing privatisation and move to secure the future of quality public services, particularly in relation to health and education services.

"Irish people will especially remember 2005 as a year characterized by the undermining of workers rights, particularly in relation to the Irish Ferries dispute. 2006 presents the Austrian Presidency, and indeed the EU as a whole with the opportunity to press for an EU Ferries Directive to deal with ferries operating in European waters under flags of convenience." ENDS

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