As Vice-President of the European Parliament, I had the honour of representing the Parliament and the 500 million citizens it represents at the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium today (Thursday, June 18th).
The Battle of Waterloo is widely regarded as a very significant moment in European history as the beginning of the end of the Napoleonic wars, with the defeat of the French Emperor by an alliance of other armies.
On this day in 1815, it was the seventh Coalition, a Prussian Army, and an Anglo-Allied Army commanded by the Duke of Wellington which defeated the French Empire forces led by Michael Ney and Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Battle of Waterloo carries great Irish significance too as numerous Irish men fought and died in the battle and in the war leading up to it. Importantly, the Duke of Wellington who led the Anglo-Allied army was in fact Irish – born in Dublin and had grown up in Trim, Co Meath. The Duke is considered of one the greatest military figures in European history.
The series of events planned to commemorate the bicentenary include two major re-enactments of the battle itself and special events surrounding many of the monuments still standing at Waterloo.
Events like these serve as valuable reminders of the true horror of the battles and war times that Europe endured. It is worthwhile remembering that the EU was founded in an effort to unite the countries of Europe in peace and in a spirit of cooperation for economic prosperity and stability.
All of the speeches at today’s commemoration were about peace and reconciliation not war. The evolution of the EU as it is today out of the ashes of was was also spoke about and the need to continue to build on that project.
The situation in Greece is again of huge concern and today (Thursday), EU leaders are meeting once to discuss the difficult impasse in talks between the Greek government and its EU-IMF creditors.
Most recently, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on the Greek Government to inform its citizens about the reality of the talks, the proposals on the table and the reality of the situation.
While it is certainly a difficult situation, real compromises are required to stabilise the situation.
No one really knows what lies ahead…
Food supply chain
This week I took part in a meeting on the food supply chain, involving participants from farming organisations and other European policy-makers.
Achieving a fair and sustainable food supply chain in Europe is a challenge that I have been closely involved in in recent times. Currently, it is clear that some farmer producers are being squeezed beyond breaking point by an imbalance of power between producers and retailers and other layers of the food supply chain which urgently needs to be addressed.
At EU level we are demanding that our farmers invest in sustainable food production systems that are mindful of environmental impacts, and ask that they produce more for less cost.
If we want to secure a future for the European agriculture sector, we need to ensure farmers can make a living from their career on the land, and that means a fair return for their work and investment. Large retailers have a large amount of negotiating power often unfairly driving down prices.
I am of the view that some legislative requirements are needed to rebalance the food supply chain.