Agenda

Irish EU presidency starts work this WEEK

07.01.13 @ 09:22

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - Ireland takes over the EU presidency this week, amid promises to help restore growth to the European economy.

  • Irish leader Enda Kenny at the Dublin ceremony last week (Photo: eu2013.ie)

It marked the event with a modest EU balloon-flying and flag-raising ceremony in Dublin castle on New Year's eve.

On Monday (7 January), it will also switch on its "Skylum" - an artwork in the EU Council building in Brussels in the form of an inflatable bubble, which changes colour and makes sounds when people walk under it and which aims to symbolise a marriage of new technology and traditional crafts.

Its foreign ministry on New Year's eve said: "The year 2013 will usher in a new phase in the European Union's drive for recovery."

Its foreign minister Eamon Gilmore in the Irish Times the same day noted that despite Ireland's bailout haedships, its EU membership has over the past 40 years transformed it from a rural backwater to one of the wealthiest societies in Europe.

He added that Ireland will try to get young people back to work with a new "youth guarantee scheme," to clinch an EU-US free trade deal and to help online firms and small businesses to prosper in the single market.

Top EU officials and most commissioners will visit Dublin on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In line with the Irish theme, the European Commission will on Tuesday publish a review of EU social welfare standards and on Wednesday propose measures to help entrepreneurs launch new businesses.

The commission will on Wednesday also unveil its European Cyber Crime Centre.

The unit, based in the EU joint police body, Europol, in The Hague, will target online organised crime, including child pornography.

For their part, MEPs on the budget control committee will on Thursday question EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton on how she spent EU funds while starting up the foreign service in 2011.

Deputies on the civil liberties committee will the same day vote whether to let member states temporarily suspend visa-free deals with non-EU-countries if there is a sudden leap upward in migration.

Outside Brussels, Greek leader Antonis Samaras will on Tuesday visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin for an "informal exchange of views," as Athens tries to keep EU bailout money flowing.

And the European Central Bank in Frankfurt on Thursday will consider lowering eurozone interest rates to help households and businesses get back to borrowing and spending.