Dealing with crises and arising challenges is nothing new for the EU in the sense that European politicians have been working together towards consensus and with great diplomatic efforts ever since.
The immigration crisis is the most serious challenge the EU has faced, since the financial crisis of 2008. Many naysayers predicted the end of the Euro or even the Union while EU leaders grappled with the financial crisis, yet we witnessed those leaders show solidarity, supporting each other in terms of aid. Many new rules have been implemented to improve and strengthen our financial systems in order to prevent such instances being repeated.
In many ways, one could say the EU rose to the challenge of the financial crisis, learned from it and implemented constructive measures to the benefit of Europe in its wake.
Immigration also requires solidarity across Europe. It is another unprecedented challenge for which EU leaders are working earnestly to provide the solutions too.
This week, a special meeting of EU leaders and Turkey took place in Brussels on how to stem the flow of migrants and refugees into the Union. That will involve supporting Turkey with aid to help accommodate and look after those refugees in Turkey, across the border from their home country. Meanwhile, we must also address the serious crime of people smuggling.
The crisis is far from solved, but leaders are working towards a multi-faceted response to help those in need with immediate humanitarian aid while securing our external borders.
UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that he will hold a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union on Thursday, 23 June 2016.
Mr Cameron wants the UK to stay in the EU on the basis of a reform deal agreed by the Heads of State and Governments of the EU recently. You can find more details on the deal here: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/european-council/2016/02/18-19/
This is not the first time such a referendum has taken place in Britain. In 1975, Britain voted to stay in the EU with 67.5 % of votes in favour.
Interestingly, 40 years on from that result, a Parlemeter survey found that 46 percent of UK respondents feel attached to the EU, 47pc view EU membership as a good thing, while 51pc believe the UK has benefited from membership of the Union.
The Parlemeter survey conducted in the 28 EU Member States, the fieldwork for which was carried out by TNS opinion between 19 and 29 September 2015. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/atyourservice/EN/20150630PVL00108/2015-parlemeter
In the forthcoming June referendum, Irish citizens aged over 18 who are resident in the UK will be eligible to vote.
From an Irish perspective, it is important to say that any exit by the UK from the EU could have a detrimental impact on our economy as the UK is Ireland’s largest EU trading partner. There are also other considerations, like maintaining the progress to date in the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Many UK business leaders are advocating that the UK remains in the EU. That’s not surprising given that EU membership means access to a market of 500 million citizens. The British Chambers of Commerce says 55% of members back staying in a reformed EU.
Following the European Council summit in February, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny assured Irish citizens that, due to the special relationship between Ireland and the UK, they will not be impacted in terms of visa requirements should the UK leave the EU. Ireland and the UK have had a common travel area in place since the 1920s, with shared visa agreements and border controls.
There are many implications of a Yes or No vote in the UK referendum which will be evident as pre-referendum campaigning continues.
International Women’s Day 2016 (8 March) focused on achieving parity for women or equality in terms of status and pay.
It has been noted that in 2014, the World Economic Forum predicted that global gender parity could be a reality by 2095, but last year, they changed that prediction to 2133 as progress slowed.
This year, on International Women’s Day, all women are asked to “Pledge for Parity” by speaking up for gender equality, and to honour all women in all parts of the world.
This year, our thoughts are especially with women refugees who need our support after they have fled war-torn areas in search of refuge, often with small children.