In the shadow of austerity : Ireland's seventh presidency of the European Union
Title: In the shadow of austerity : Ireland's seventh presidency of the European Union
Author: LAFFAN, Brigid
Citation: Journal of Common Market studies, 2014, Vol. 52, No. 1, pp. 90-98
Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of its accession to the European Union on 1 January 2013, Ireland assumed the Presidency of the Council for the seventh time. Ireland’s first Presidency – a landmark for this small state in 1975 – marked the end of the country’s apprenticeship in the then European Economic Community. As a small state and a net beneficiary of EU funding, successive Irish governments regarded the Presidency as an opportunity to make a constructive contribution to the management of European business for a six-month period (Laffan and O’Mahony, 2009). There was also awareness that the Presidency brought small states into the heart of the Union, reinforced bilateral relations with all Member States and gave welcome international exposure. Ireland’s seventh Presidency was unlike previous ones in two important respects (Laffan, 2013). First, Ireland found itself in the unenviable position of being a ‘programme country’ having had to request a bail-out in November 2010 (Donovan and Murphy, 2013). Prior to the Presidency, there was concern about how much Ireland could achieve given its weak economic position (Piedrafita, 2013; Barry, 2013a). In previous Presidencies, the government and administration tended to focus considerable energy on, and give priority to, the business of the EU. Domestic issues, other than very urgent ones, were put on the back burner. This time the core executive had no such luxury. The domestic economy required continuous attention and the Presidency provided a vital platform for the government in its continuing quest to repair the reputational damage that Ireland experienced as a result of the economic crisis. Second, Ireland’s seventh Presidency was conducted under the rules of the Lisbon Treaty, which made substantial changes to the role and prerogatives of the rotating Presidency (Dinan, 2010). For long-serving diplomats and officials with extensive pre-Lisbon Presidency experience, there was a need to adjust to and prepare for the post-Lisbon world.
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