Overall perception of the French Presidency of the EU

Ireland
Institute of International and European Affairs
 
The position of the government on France’s tenure in the Presidency of the EU is positive. The Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, in his statement to the Dáil on the outcome of the December European Council meeting remarked that the “excellent French Presidency of the Union” was demonstrated by the fact that “such a heavy agenda could be completed with unanimously agreed conclusions”. Mr. Cowen continued by stating that his government is “indebted to [President Sarkozy] for the leadership and assistance he has provided Europe”[1].
 
Irish media presented a similarly positive view of the French Presidency. The Irish Times newspaper describes it – in an editorial – as an “effective” Presidency during a difficult six months for Europe. The overall view in Ireland of the Presidency is that it was successful in its pragmatic yet ambitious approach that allowed the member states to reach strong compromises on important issues such as climate change and how to deal with the financial crisis.[2]
 
Mr. Cowen particularly praised the French Presidency for the work put into securing an agreement between Ireland and the other member states on how to recover and move forward from the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by the Irish electorate in the June referendum.[3]
 

The performance of the EU in the financial crisis

Ireland
Institute of International and European Affairs
 
Membership of the European Union is perceived to have had a positive effect on Ireland in helping to limit the damage that the country is currently suffering as a result of the financial crisis. In particular there is a perception that membership of the Eurozone and strong support from the ECB is crucial to the survival of the Irish economy, which on its own is relatively small and very open.[1]
 
Coverage has also been given to positive moves by the ECB, for example the doubling of loan aid available to governments[2] and the December 2008 European Council’s agreement on a pan-EU Economic Recovery plan[3] and joint action over toxic debt and the establishment of ‘bad banks’.[4]
 
Expected shifts in the international power constellation
 
The most significant expected shift in international power affecting Ireland is the relative weakening of US diplomacy following the global financial crisis[5] and the country’s military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
As part of a speech delivered at Keio University on 15 January 2009, the Taoiseach highlighted the limits of US power evident in the Iraq war, and the fresh opportunities for co-operation with an America which needs partners and with emerging powers in Asia and a resurgent Russia.[6]

Three top priorities for a re-definition or re-vitalisation of the transatlantic and EU-US relationship

Ireland
Institute of International and European Affairs

1. The issue of greatest importance is almost certainly contributing to a global solution to the global financial crisis. The lack of liquidity in domestic and international markets is of concern for Ireland, with cutbacks in public services and increasing unemployment dominating the attention of government, media and ordinary citizens. Avoiding a growth in EU-US protectionism, reassuring and encouraging US investment (and conditions for EU investment in the US), and establishing better international financial regulation are pressing issues for Ireland in future EU-US relations.[1]
 
2. Climate change continues to dominate the international relations agenda in the run-up to the international conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. In the December 2008 European Council and during his January 2009 visit to Japan, the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, made continual references to the importance of taking action against climate change.[2]
 

The future of the EU after the Irish ‘No’

Ireland
Institute of International and European Affairs

Conclusions of the European Council of December 2008 on the fate of the Lisbon Treaty