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Priorities for the Netherlands EU Council Presidency: what areas are important for business?

Jan 14, 2016

This morning Chambers Ireland attended the European Movement Ireland briefing on the Netherlands Presidency of the Council of the EU. The presidency of the Council rotates among the EU member states every 6 months. During this 6-month period, the presidency chairs meetings at every level in the Council, helping to ensure the continuity of the EU's work in the Council. This was the ninth such briefing hosted by EMI in Government Buildings and, as has become the norm, was a full house. Speaking at this morning’s event was HE Ambassador Paul Schellekens and Minister for EU Affairs Dara Murphy.

Ambassador Schellekens noted that the Netherlands Presidency comes at a time when “the world’s eyes are on Europe”. The European Union faces enormous challenges in the months and years to come and four of the key priorities for the six months presidency would include migration and international security; the internal market; the currency union; and last but not least climate and energy.

Of important interest to business will be the Presidency’s focus on deepening and strengthening the Internal Market. Ambassador Schellekens said that encouraging job creating companies to grow and develop will be a vital objective of the Netherlands Presidency. He noted that we need one set of rules for doing business and that we need to continue to remove trade barriers. Specifically, the EU needs a Digital Single Market that works for business. He also said that we need to be mindful of remaining open to the rest of the world and we must continue to pursue Free Trade Agreements, including the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States.

A priority for the Presidency, and for the European Union, will also be pursuing sustainable economic objectives, particularly when it comes to meeting the targets agreed in the COP21 Paris Agreement. Creating a Circular Economy, encouraging the responsible use of fossil fuels and developing an Energy Union will be a big part of the work of the Netherlands Presidency.

Minister Dara Murphy welcomed the comments and commitments from Ambassador Schellekens and highlighted that Ireland too would be working hard to support this body of work, particularly when it comes to developing solutions to migration and tackling terrorism and radicalisation. The potential exit of the United Kingdom, the so-called “Brexit” is also amongst Ireland’s concerns for 2016. Minister Murphy noted that, with the exception of the UK, Ireland stands to be the most significantly impacted by “Brexit”. He said UK membership benefits the entire European Union and efforts must be continued to negotiate a deal that will see the UK remaining as part of the Union.

From a business perspective, Minister Murphy also noted that 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the Single European Act. Barriers across borders are barriers to growth so ensuring that the Single Market, and the proposed Digital Single Market, works in the interest of business should be at the top of the collective agenda of the 28 member states.

Minister Murphy also spoke on a matter central to the work of Chambers Ireland and that is the speedy negotiation and ratification of TTIP, which he notes is a crucial opportunity for the two largest trading blocs to bring about a new era of prosperity.

It’s positive to see that issues like Internal Market, better regulation and trade are important priorities for the work of the Presidency. From our own perspective in Chambers Ireland, we will be continuing our work to promote the need for an SME-friendly TTIP agreement, the removal of trade barriers in the Internal Market and better regulation when it comes to ensuring the EU legislation prioritises the “Think Small First” Principle.

For more information on the Netherlands EU Presidency, please see their website here

Additionally, be sure to follow us on Twitter for news on trade, regulation and EU Affairs relevant to Irish business @ChambersIreland

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