Sunday

17th Feb 2019

New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits

  • Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar (c), with his colleagues from Malta and Germany (Photo: Council of the European Union)

French president Emmanuel Macron was not the only novice arriving in Brussels this week for his first ever EU summit, or European Council meeting.

Ireland's new prime minister, Leo Varadkar, also had his summit debut.

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  • Varadkar: 'It's just politicians in the room. There are no officials there with you' (Photo: Council of the European Union)

“It's an interesting experience, being in the European Council for the first time,” he said.

He told journalists on Friday (23 June) that the format is much more dynamic than he was used to.

"It is very informal," Varadkar said, noting that government leaders call each other by their first names.

"Leo" was elected prime minister earlier this month, but is not new to the EU stage.

Before he became prime minister, he was minister for transport (2011-2014), minister for health (2014-2016), and minister for social protection (2016-2017).

The Irish politician represented his country in EU ministerial meetings, called Council of Ministers (or Council of the EU). That format was “very different” from the leaders' summit gathering, Varadkar said.

“Because it's just politicians in the room. There are no officials there with you,” he said.

“Council of Ministers tends to be people reading out statements to each other. This is very different. It's very dynamic.”

“It's people talking with a document in front of them, making changes to those documents, and changing the language and wording, and the meaning, without reference to officials or advisers,” said Varadkar.

“I really felt that the elected politicians were in control, which isn't the way you necessarily feel all the time in politics. It's a very good dynamic in that sense.”

The Irish leader praised the fact that the debates were “very frank”.

“People don't speak in riddles, people are very frank in terms of their views on things. Where there are differences of opinion, there are differences of opinion.”

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