Representatives from the Chambers network across Ireland including the CEO of County Carlow Chamber visited Brussels on the 19th and 20th February 2019 to discuss a number of priorities for Business and to launch the Chamber Manifesto for Europe with the upcoming elections.  Over the two days the delegation took part in a series of meetings in the European Commission, European Parliament and also in the office of the Irish Permanent Representation.

Brief Overview on some of the Meetings

DG for Taxation and Customs Union

The delegation met Head of Unit for Legal Affairs – indirect taxation Directorate General for Taxation and Customs Union to discuss the recent Commission Communication “Towards a more efficient and democratic decision-making in EU tax policy“.  At the meeting, Patrice Pillet updated the network and discussed a number of challenges and the concerns of business.

Task Force for the Preparation and Conduct of Article 50 TEU

The Taskforce on Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom is in charge of preparing and conducting the negotiations with the UK, taking into account the framework of its future relationship with the European Union.  Nina Obermaier one of the members of the taskforce lead by Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier provided an update on the state of play of the Brexit negotiation.

A number of items were discussed including the details surrounding the decision for the UK to remain in the European Common Transit convention after Brexit.

Directorate General for Trade

The Directorate-General (DG) for Trade works on securing prosperity, solidarity and security in Europe and around the globe. Adeline Hinderer, Deputy Head of Unit discussed a number of items including the various trade agreements that have been signed and ones that are also in the pipeline.  The department have recently completed 8 Trade Agreements with 15 countries and further work is being completed to ensure improved market access for exporters and importers.

Directorate General for Environment

Paulo Da Silva Lemos presented on the work of the DG for Environment on the circular economy and single use plastics.  The department aims to protect, preserve and improve the environment for present and future generations, proposing and implementing policies that ensure a high level of environmental protection and preserve the quality of life of EU citizens.  The action plan for implementing the circular economy includes a number of measures, further details are here.

Irish Permanent Representation

Ambassador Hackett at the Irish Perm Rep discussed the work of the department in Brussels and with the EU, focusing on areas of particular concern to the Chamber Network including the Future of Europe, Brexit negotiations, CCCTB, regulation and investment.

Meeting wth Irish MEP’s

The meeting with Irish MEP’s had been arranged through the office of Sean Kelly MEP, with invitations extended to the Irish Representatives in Brussels; on the morning we were delighted to meet with:

Sean Kelly

Mairead McGuinness

Deirdre Clune

Matt Carthy

Brian Hayes

Marian Harkin

A range of topics were discussed with the representatives including the Future of Europe, Agriculture & Rural Development, The value of being in the EU, Taxation and Digital Europe.

The meeting also saw the launch of the Chamber Manifesto for Europe, where we are calling on candidates to prioritise the following issues: investment in our cities and regions, an ambitious international trade agenda, a competitive and global approach to tax reform, a fully-connected digital Europe that supports innovation and a business-friendly framework for a sustainable circular economy.”

Pictured Above:

Deirdre Clune, MEP; Sean Kelly, MEP; Brian O’Farrell, CEO County Carlow Chamber

Irish Regions Office

The Irish Regions European Office (IREO) is a specialised support service which acts as a bridge between Irish local and regional government and the European Union, explaining and guiding its stakeholders through the Brussels scene and promoting Irish interests and best practices at the European level.

Agata Kolokdynska discussed EU Regional Development Policy after which Jim Conway of the Eastern and Midlands Regional Assembly further discussed the structures, RSES and strategic plans for the future of Ireland.

DG Regional and Urban Policy

The meeting with DG Regio focused on a number of areas, in particular looking at funding and policy across Europe.

There are 5 Cohesion Policy priorities (objectives)
1. A smarter Europe (innovative & smart economic transformation)
2. A greener, low-carbon Europe (including energy transition, the circular economy, climate adaptation and risk management)
3. A more connected Europe (mobility and ICT connectivity)
4. A more social Europe (the European Pillar of Social Rights)
5. A Europe closer to citizens (sustainable development of urban, rural and coastal areas and local initiatives)

A range of opportunities for funding will be available through initiatives like ERDF and the Urban Innovation Actions.  There is a host of further information available from DG Regio

Meeting with Commissioner Hogan

The final meeting of the agenda was with the EU Commissioner Phil Hogan who is responsible for the portfolio of Agriculture and Rural Development.  With the changes that are happening at present and of course the impending election in May, the Future of Europe was on the agenda along with the areas of Trade, Sustainability and of course CAP funding.

There will be a bigger focus on areas including Research and Technology across Europe and it is also vital that all areas embrace Environment and Climate Change, looking at ways to improve in these areas and in turn benefit our supply chains.  Agriculture is the biggest employer across Europe with over 22 million people, so a focus on sustainability and the environment will strengthen this into the future.  Another key area is Origin Green and the importance of this cannot be underestimated.

The commission has worked to secure a range of trade agreements and there are a number of others being negotiated.  These agreements will help our sectors in many ways and we need to embrace these and work to maximise the benefits.

Pictured above:

Thomas McHugh, Cork Chamber; Aoife Gallagher, Eli Lilly & Company; Brian O’Farrell, County Carlow Chamber; Commissioner Phil Hogan; Paula McCaul, Meath Chamber; Frank Greene, Galway Chamber