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good evening my name is Professor Pat gy and president of the r Academy and also present here this evening is the

Academy’s executive director Dr shono suvan and the academy secretary Professor Dan kry we’re delighted to

welcome you all this evening to the Rish Academy for tonight’s discourse entitled the future of the EU bigger and better

question mark and I think the question mark might be important so we’ll we’ll see that later on Academy discourses are

the oldest and most renowned series of talks in Ireland the first discourses were presented in

1786 historically they were the occasion reserved for the most distinguished academics to First reveal and discuss

their work in public We Now record these discourses and they are available on the

Academy’s website before we begin we have some uh short acade Academy business to

undertake the minutes of our last discourse explaining unionism on the 18th of April 2024 were posted online

since our members did not inform us of any issues with these minutes I will take these as approved and I will sign

the minute book after this this tour concludes we welcome our esteemed

speakers for this evening’s discourse commissioner Mar mcginness is the European commissioner for financial

services financial stability and capital markets Union before joining the Commission in October 2020 she was the

first vice president of the European Parliament she served as an MEP from Ireland for 16 years and was a vice

president of the parliament since 2014 welcome Mar Olivia oi member of the

r Academy is a journalist broadcaster public commentator and writer of international standing her work makes an

exceptional contribution to Irish society and has been praised for its perceptiveness literary skill and humor

O’Brien press have published two volumes of her radio columns for RTE DriveTime politicians and other animals party

animals she was elected a member of the Rish Academy in 2019 now to the discourse and Olivia

over to you thank you good evening everybody and whoops

mic’s Mikes are they working they are working you can never take this for

granted that they will be working anyway it’s lovely to be here in this esteemed

institution and you know I was just thinking when we were both walking in in that little procession earlier that um

there isn’t an awful lot of ritual left in life so it’s actually very nice uh

every so often to be part of a procession I haven’t done it I think since I had my First Holy Communion but

it it felt very nice indeed um we are at a crucial point in

the life of the European Union so it’s very fit that we should be talking to commissioner mcginness today we’ve been

dealing in the last few years with a worldwide pandemic with the massive

change to the union that brexit offered uh with war on our borders and a

candidate uh EU country and with growing resistance to the European green deal

and to the level of immigration into the EU and we don’t know really what uh

these challenges to the system will do throughout Europe in the forthcoming elections but we know I suppose that

things will change after the June elections but to explore what some of the thinking is at the top table of the

European commission uh we are joined as you’ve heard earlier by Ireland’s member

mered mcginness commissioner for financial services Financial stability and capital markets and as I well know

of course meray in her time has been an agricultural journalist and broadcaster as well as a vice president of the

European Parliament um just to go with our title bigger and better um I mean

I’m old enough to remember the various points at which the EU uh en en enlarged

itself will it get larger how much larger will it get I looked down that long list of candidate countries and I

wonder when is the next big step going to happen well I think it’s worth looking at the fact that Ireland’s

joining Europe was the first enlargement so Ireland the UK and Denmark and then we marked recently the last big

enlargement that you know in in 2004 so 20 years ago we had a huge number of

countries joining there’s never been a figure put on how large will Europe become I think enlargement becomes

necessary when countries seek to join and when there’s an imperative for for us to look at them as candidate

countries and I suppose there was enlargement fatigue because we did as I say Mark 20 years and then Bulgaria

Romania Croatia I think there was a resistance to even thinking about enlargement a little bit like treaty

change there’s a resistance in terms of thinking about treaty change but the war in Ukraine Russia’s illegal invasion of

Ukraine I think has changed everything um to some extent when Russia invaded Crimea we reacted but maybe not in a

significant way so when they went in and and further invaded it was it was a

wakeup call to Europe that there is war now on European soil um that Ukraine had

an if you like was looking towards the European Union it had a hope that that would be its destination and also there

are other countries um that also seek to join so I think what we do say if you’re

looking at a numbers it could enlarge to be more than 30 but not to put a figure on it and it won’t happen overnight it

will happen over time because it’s merit-based so I think there was some anxiety that this was a rush to allow

countries in even if they weren’t uh if you like meeting all the criteria that isn’t the case so you you’re talking

about some longer periods than next year for example that said Ukraine really has

managed to address some of the issues that it needs to address already because it’s very key even in a wartime

situation and some of those things are areas that I look at after like um you know uh Financial crime anti-money

laundering corruption then there’s judicial issues and there’s a lot of issues there to be addressed uh in not

only in Ukraine but in other countries as well um so no limit to the numbers

merit-based and yes I think there is an appetite now to deal with enlargement

where we haven’t really had a discussion yet is what does that mean for the institutions um for the European

commission for decision making but that will all be dealt with in time so I

think even in these elections there isn’t much discussion around enlargement I hear some maybe in the the the farm

sector being a bit worried that Ukraine is a huge producer of Commodities Global um supplier and how will that impact

common agriculture policy and I think sometimes we look to enlargement as almost endangering what we have rather

than seeing enlargement as adding value to everybody because those countries that came in 20 years ago have hugely

benefited from being part of a single Market but being able to move um we’ve benefited from citizens coming to our

country we have all those skilled workers that came in here we needed very badly absolutely I was talking to to a

man yesterday and um he had a very Irish accent but what I knew he’s he said you know I’m polish well I said I couldn’t

really make it out and he said I came here um 20 years ago when I was 16 and

it was really interesting to hear his story his father came first and then the family came and he has aspirations maybe

to live in the Irish Countryside maybe to go back to Poland uh but but fully enjoying that experience now I suppose

the downside for some countries particularly those uh the newer member states even though if they’re not so new

they did suffer a brainin yeah they did suffer that but but people are going back now um but I think the the

imperative for enlargement is because for our own security um and also to make

sure that we have an openness to new members rather than saying at some point

well actually the European Union is now closed and we’re not accepting anyone in’s there’s no more room but can we

just go back a little bit to Ukraine um and it’s something that I suppose a lot

of people have been uneasy about nearly for the last 10 years the extent to

which there was perhaps an element of triumphalism in the way the West moved

in there the British the Americans did to um saying you know this is fantastic

the orange Revolution is great um we’re going to have a new border for Europe and the European Union right up against

Russia and I was thinking about you know God save us and all harm the Monroe

Doctrine the notion of areas where big Powers have certain control and other big Powers don’t get involved and I I

remember wondering is is this wise are we promising creating expectations in

Ukraine that we can’t meet and in the process poking the bear well I mean you can interpret it

that way or you can say the opposite that if people in Ukraine freely choose to look to Europe they should be free to

do that and we shouldn’t turn our gaze because we you know we don’t we’re kind of very cautious I think that would be a

wrong approach but the truth is that when you um Ukraine was invaded by

Russia and now the war is there and and continuing um even as we speak there was

an imperative for us to acknowledge that we couldn’t just turn our gaze uh because it had implications not just for

Ukraine but also for Europe so there’s no doubt there’s um there’s huge fragmentation now there is a worry about

not just what’s happening Ukraine um Europe Russia China Taiwan the US so at

the moment the whole geopolitical landscape uh is very unsettled and that

is alarming when you think about the potential for for further conflict and how it’s managed and I haven’t even

mentioned what’s happening uh these days in Gaza and The Wider Middle East so I think there are I mean interpretations

you have to deal with the real world I mentioned that maybe um when Crimea was invaded we didn’t respond we had some

sanctions but not very deep I think we didn’t perhaps realize that it would grow that it would become a much bigger

threat and Challenge and it has become that uh and therefore you either turn away from it as neighbors or you

show solidarity which is what the European Union has done well let’s pick up one or two of the things that you

mentioned there and something that I think you’re particularly responsible for which would be um

sanctions um are they having the effect we want

I’m responsible for implementing sanctions so the political decisions are taken by ministers and I think it’s 13

if not we’re working on a four package they are working remember that some of the figures we’re hearing from Russia’s

economy um nobody can verify them it is a war economy so all the focus is on

producing for war um Russia has been decoupled from the Global Financial system uh we have Frozen a lot of uh

Russian central bank money uh we have sanctioned a lot of individuals what’s

obviously happening and I think this is something that Europe now realizes we have to deal much more effectively with

is that we have friends but Russia also has many friends and China being one and

China being one of them and circumvention is is happening very definitely uh our colleague David OS

solivan is working at the international level so visiting countries where we know goods are going through and false

documentation and the products are ending up on the the battlefields in Ukraine but as I said to the um member

states recently at a workshop uh you know circumvention starts at home so the goods are are from Europe when they’re

going through and getting back into Russia so we rather in the war in Ukraine but where we’re really active is

trying to cut off that supply chain the more we have put pressure uh both on the financial side and on access to these um

dual use Goods that can be used in the battlefield the more Russia has sought to find people including with oil

Transportation they’re using very old fleets and India is buying from them and this goes back maybe to your point

Olivia about the way the world is and the fragmentation of the big the power block

um so certainly we have learned that not everybody supports what Europe is doing

but we support democracy and freedom and those basic things that maybe in Ireland

we take for granted as opposed to Value but the war goes on and there are EU

countries that are using Li liquefied gas from from from Russia yeah I mean

the war goes on um you know because Russia has turned itself into a war economy um Russia As I understood it in

the beginning expected this war to be over within months um I think the fear we all have is that it will go and last

much longer uh a prolonged war with all of the human cost uh uh that goes with

it and the financial cost that goes with it and the rebuilding cost which will have to be paid for I I imagine also by

Europe um but mered is there not something that the EU should be doing about the fact that Belgium and France

and Spain are are still purchasing liquified natural gas but they’re not

breaking um sanctions so you have to be very clear that when Russia turned off

the gas supplies to Germany um we did uh already move away from using anything

that came in the direction uh through pipeline so we Diversified supplies at a

cost we had to get fuel from Norway and uh from the US we were more efficient

with energy use and we started investing more in Renewables um I mean in one

sense we did an incredibly good job to keep the lights on so the challenge for Europe at that moment was if everything

goes if we have no fuel what happens internally in Europe so it was a really really difficult time to get that

balance right between keeping you know our economy going coming out of Co

showing solidarity with Ukraine by stopping the purchase I mean I I I’ll be

very clear that when I talk to colleagues from Lithuania lvia Estonia on the borders of Russia they would go

much further and and faster because they know the story and the history um and they are always the colleagues who push

more strongly for tougher action so why aren’t we going further and faster because we well we’re going as fast and

further as we can with the the political um agreement of countries so I cannot

force or the commission cannot force countries to accept a package that goes beyond what they think is a appropriate

so we we’ve taken very clear steps so we’ve started at at a certain package and then we’ve moved to 13 and 14 so so

more will come I think the big question is why didn’t the war stop I remember somebody asking me that after the first

month I wish it was that straightforward but what we have certainly um created is

a very difficult place for Russia they are insisting that they will continue this war but we are making it very

difficult for them to do that by both our sanctions on the financial system and our San

on Duel use goods and on services and on oligarchs but don’t underestimate the

power of those who are not our friends to allow for circumvention and don’t

underestimate that in Wars people like to profit from them and I think that’s the horrible side of all of this that

there are operators who try to profit the other thing that this whole Ukrainian situation on our borders has

highlighted is the need for greater coordination particularly on defense and security among European member states

states is it time that countries like Ireland have to take on board uh the

need to take much more seriously the need to defend the union of which it is a member I would put security and

defense in that order I think Ireland is neutral that is not going to change and I think um you know the minister for

foreign affairs mol Martin has been very strong around this whole topic he had very good dialogues last year around

security and defense um look I look after the financial system my biggest concern is if there is a a serious

attack a Cyber attack that knocks out our financial system and that you know we wipe our money is wiped from our

accounts and you cannot recover that would be enormously and horrifically impactful so we need to think about

security and defense we need to think about defense Not Just In traditional ways as we do but in defense of our

infrastructure the cables that connect us uh the the technology the systems that we all rely on on now for for

ordinary and everyday things but to go back to your point generally around um

security and defense there has always been a discussion around this so my first elections to the European

Parliament it’s 20 years ago in 2004 um I would have been attacked about being

part of a group that want an EU Army so the word EU Army was always every single election and it’s not going to happen

and it hasn’t happened but you know there are facts and figures that show that as as a collective when you look at

the spending of Europe on defense we spend badly we spend a lot of money we

don’t spend in a coordinated way so if we needed to cooperate if those who have

armies need to cooperate they can’t do it because the equipment isn’t interoperable so I think it’s about a

strategic look at what are we investing in security and defense is it being

wasted or is it actually adding to a sense of security and defense and I think there is a heightened awareness of

that now um you’ll hear other leaders um like France uh Germany even who had to

were very adverse to even speaking about this topic now aware that we need to take it seriously ourselves um it’s very

interesting that Mario dragi the former president of the ECB has warned us on three things one of them is that you

know relying on the US to defend us is no longer as certain as it was I was about to ask you but that what if what

if Trump wins the next election well you see and pulls out of NATO or reduces is

his his his contribution to Nato yeah well I suppose when I when I think of Elections and results that we don’t like

I mean we all support democracy and sometimes democracy gives us a result that we may not like but we have to

respect it and that might also go for the composition of the European Parliament because there’s expectations

it might go in in different directions so we don’t know the Whata if I mean I will say if I pull back and look at um

when there was a trump presidency and talk to my colleagues in the financial services area they would say that at the

service level so at institutional level as opposed to the political level you know they were able to cooperate as

normal with the US and deal with financial stability issues and institutional issues that need to be

talked about so you need that’s why one in one way strong institutions um are

really important that regardless of political leadership there’s a sense of Duty amongst those that serve in public

institutions but you’re right to raise it in so far as it may make us even more

alert to the fact that Europe has to stand on its own two feet I’ve been saying in speeches that I feel that even

in my time I think Europe is now less naive about its place in the world and indeed about the world um you know we do

talk about our values and democracy and the rule of law um and and I think

that’s all to the good but we also realize that many parts of the world don’t quite think as we do and don’t

respect what we have um and their leaders don’t want their citizens to have what we have um so that’s why the

discussion around security and defense is not about Europe going to war it’s about Europe securing its peace yeah but

also Europe securing its peace when Wars can be waged at at a very different

level that you may never see a person with a gun or a a weapon but that you

can have an attack on systems that would be very very damaging and if I when I

speak to those who are in the Financial Services area this is a constant this happens every single day all the time

and they have to keep ahead of it and you have to invest in it and you need the brightest brains but remember Russia

is now on a path of trying to attack our systems also in the runup to elections so I think I think the discussion will

is more mature now it’s not about yes or no to an EU Army that’s not the case although it is interesting in some

member states where conscription um was of you know a thing of the past are now looking again towards getting young

people to come in and do service in the Army um and I think it’s quite an interesting development uh countries

have joined NATO that in the past were not looking to join NATO um but from an Irish point of view I think we have

people respect our neutrality I think there should be great clarity around that well uh one was listening to

president mcon recently making a speech and he was very much banging the drum

about the need for Europe to um be more united and more serious uh about the

fact that it was perhaps becoming more isolated as you say that the friends we used to rely on uh ain’t there anymore

um and he wasn’t just talking about defense he was talking about economies and I just wanted to ask you if we’re

going to have a more united Europe one that operates very much more more like the United States does for instance

we’re going to have to be ready for a much bigger budget take aren’t we from

uh from us I mean if we’re if we’re serious about it if we’re serious about setting up the sort of secure

information systems that you’re talking about um not to mention uh a more secure

Capital Market System aren’t we going to have to start thinking about handing over more Doh I’m going to talk about

the Doh in a minute but I think the point around the French view we talk about open strategic autonomy as

sometimes colleagues say strategic autonomy but essentially it’s about that realization that there are certain parts

of our supply chains for goods that we should really look at being more secure internally it’s not about protectionism

and it shouldn’t be and it’s not about Europe looking inward because Europe has always been better at looking outward

and and working with with Global Partners the point on the budget is is is more nuanced to say that we need more

because we need to spend more I think it’s a decision for member states do they spend themselves on these things or

do they contribute to a European budget do they contribute more and I’m just interested you sat at that top table

coming uh after a few years at that top table has Europe become more more more

more Federal and United in its view or is the nation state idea still strong as

ever well we’re United in diversity and the nation state is strong and particularly you mentioned Capital

markets because I’m working to try and uh you know complete this big project

Capital markets Union in other words we have 27 and fragmented Capital markets we could really do a lot better if we

pulled ourselves together it’s complicated because there are National issues so there are always and will

always be National issues it’s how you deal with them and on the budget I I’ll tell an interesting story so when I

joined first um Ireland was still a net beneficiary of EU funding and then we became net contributors and I would have

visitors groups over to the Parliament and I’d explain that we were now net contributors and there would be a

shuffling in the seat as if to say gosh didn’t think that would happen as if Ireland would always get um and you know

I would kind of Challenge and say but actually we got when we needed support so in the Commission office in Dublin

where I I I work from sometimes we’ve all these old newspaper cuttings about you know when Ireland joined and the

whole big excitement of it um but we’re we’re one of the established we’re like we’re there a long time sometimes I

think our conversations are still about yeah we’re in but we’re small and we have to be minded differently I think

we’re in to lead uh on all of these topics including on the budget so we do

need to have a conversation about um so I hear people saying we need more for agriculture we need more for the environment we need more for security

and defense um is there a willingness amongst member states that contribute to do that I would say at the moment there

isn’t but I think the debate will have to be had we realize that we did

something after Co which nobody would have anticipated joint borrowing so the recovery funds um many thought that

could never happen it did happen so sometimes things can happen and I think for Ireland um in this conversation it

is about what we want Europe to do do you think if we contribute more into the budget centrally that we will do things

better or do member states still want to keep you know control of and do their own thing but that conversation will

start and is already beginning um the Irish presidency is will be soon so I

think it could be even during our presidency again that we’ll have these conversations I mean I remember being on

the budget Committee of the parliament and I mean the European budget is not an easy instrument to to get your head

around but essentially you you know the commission can only provide um support

for policies through the budget most of it contributed from member states and some from the V but there is already a

discussion the European Parliament tends to push for more budget yeah than the uh member states are willing to give so

there’s always that tension two things then let’s talk about them because they’re highly political and one is

immigration and the other one is the environment and the green deed so talking first about um immigration and

I’m conscious of an election coming up in which this is going to be

increasingly an enormously important issue um there has been recently this new pact

on migration and and Asylum which has already been heavily criticized by

Amnesty International who feels that it sets back the rights of refugees and

Asylum Seekers and we’ve had books like um really interesting one by Sally

Hayden the Irish writer here um about uh the people who try to get across in

those terrible boats and then when she’s describing camps in Tunisia and places

on the outskirts of Europe where it would seem the European Union has done some fairly shabby deals to keep

migrants who are trying to make their way into the Union a away from it and they end up living effectively in sort

of concentration camps refugee camps whatever I are you happy about the way

we’ve handled migration and particularly about this new idea of you know keep

them out put them in camps in turkey or Tunisia I think Europe faces a hugely

difficult challenge because while you’ve mentioned amnesty and I’ve read that book and it’s worth reading again about

the horrors there are human traffickers who feed off those Horrors um but you

haven’t mentioned that the debate in Ireland is quite difficult at the moment around

migration um it’s and it’s not just coming from far right or whatever this is a discussion that we have to

acknowledge is happening um I think what the European Union and the commission has tried to do is make sure that there

is agreement so the The Pact you you referenced is agree need by the member states and the European Parliament so

it’s a democratically agreed packet of legislation to address weaknesses so

strong external borders are necessary people who are entitled to protection under international law have got to be

treated fairly and quickly and those who are not entitled to be in Europe we have

to be clear they have to be returned this pact provides for all of those

things and more investment in the infrastructure that’s acquired on your wider Point as a human being do I like

to see what’s happening in Gaza today none of us do it’s horrific do I like to think that there are people who want to

come because they see what we have um and they’re they’re not there in Tunisia and we have done I mean I wouldn’t use

your terminology in describing them I think what Europe has tried to do is to

work with countries um and we’ve supported um Tura in relation to um uh

refugees the Lebanon also it it it is a very difficult reality that if you have

a smartphone in countries where there is both um you know no democracy and you’ve

no job and your life is awful and you see what Europe has to offer there is a

pull factor to that but politically if you respond to that by opening borders

then you de destabilize everything it sounds really harsh to say that when you read Sally Hayden’s book it

terrible um but I think we also in this are going to tackle those who are making

a fortune on the backs of people who have nothing so you see young men leaving their homes they borrow money

from their families who borrow it from somewhere else uh and sometimes the horrific story as we know of migrants

who end up in trucks and die then this news goes back to their home and these families are saddled with this

incredible and horrible death and death of their family members I think this is

a global problem it is not likely to ease anytime soon what we also do in

Europe which is not really I think um understood we invest a lot of money trying to help countries build up both

their economy and their political infrastructure was talking the that is the answer that Europe again and we

shouldn’t look for for praise or claps on the back but we do an awful lot of good work um my colleague uh

commissioner you really looks after this area China does it as well but China goes in and does it very differently it

very much stamps it’s uh it China is in there we do it I think we do it very

effectively and we have to do much more of it um but we’ve been doing that for a long time um I mean Africa has huge

potential as a a continent other parts of the world where there’s difficulties have huge potential as well we have to

use our resources to assist yeah I must say when she said that today I remember

think thinking yes that that that makes more sense that’s to a certain extent an

acceptance of the inequality and an acceptance that if we leave the inequality the way it

is we go down too you know it’s an acceptance of our responsibility it is

yeah and you know it’s very interesting um some if we look at the African continent some countries do not have um

a a what you call it a a flowery view of Europe of some European countries because of History

Ireland is different I’ve had very interesting conversations with leaders uh in Africa and they they War are

warmer towards Ireland so we have because you have a halo around your head I don’t know my halo has long slipped

but but at least they know that uh we have a different history um so I think we have a

responsibility uh even to do much more because it not only for vested

self-interest I think that wouldn’t be the only reason you do it because a a world that has less inequality is a much

better world a world where families can stay together rather than a father or mother having to leave behind children

with grandparents is a much better world and maybe I should say this when we’re talking about migration you know that

when we go into our hospitals in our care homes in all of these places we see people who’ve traveled very far to come

to Ireland to look after our most vulnerable um I remember been asked a question in 2004 about did I not feel

you know terrible leaving my family and going to Brussels for two or three or four days a week and you a woman and a

mother and I said do we not feel a little bit terrible when we you know I I

mentioned Filipino nurses for example who leave their children not just for three or four days a week but for years

and send money back I said I wish we would think of them occasionally and

actually value their input to us and you know the world will turn on this because

if you look at there’s labor shortages in Europe now we actually need people yeah and I mean I think all of this

conversation around keeping people out and whatever is really against the reality it will turn because Europe’s

birth rate will make a turn absolutely just to move on to the green deal and um

you’d be be very familiar with this um the fact of the matter is that any

political party heading into elections in June will be conscious that the farming community in particular feel

quite AG grieved they feel that it’s not on understood uh you know what it takes out

of them that they’re not really being given the incentives uh to do what is wanted of them and that they’re being

painted as the bad guys yeah I mean hands up here I’m from a farm I’m married to a farmer so I live

on a farm when I’m here so I was aware of this before it became violent in the sense of

protest um I had had conversations when I was still in the parliament with some

colleagues in the the commission and I was trying to say look the farmers are very independent and very proud and the

last thing we should have done was sort of say you’ve caused this problem and

You’ have to fix it um so I think there wasn’t very effective communication uh because the reality is

that farmers have changed over the decades as we’ve asked them to do I think the second point we didn’t do very

well I was a very young reporter maybe 22 23 when I worked on a program called Landmark on RTE we used film at the time

and we did uh lots of stories encouraging Farmers to rip out hedge RS we showed them how to drain the land and

they got grants for it and how to use lots of fertilizer and that was public policy that was European public policy

and our research agencies pursued that and we went too far with that agenda so

now we’re asking farmers of a certain generation who did all we asked them to do to do almost the opposite to drain

you know redrain if you like flood land again use less replant hedge RS now they’re replanting hedge RS and they are

leaving more ground that is wet wet but it goes against the grain of a certain generation of farmers and when you’re

trying to do big change it’s not even about the money it’s all it’s about the respect thing and the psychology behind

it so farmer frustration vented itself in protests not so much in Ireland I

think but but cross Europe they were in Brussels and and whatever um and maybe sometimes you need a protest to let this

steam out of it and then people have to gather around what’s really interesting on on the environment particularly land

do you think we’re going to have to step back a little bit from the green de we we can’t because we have now legally

bound objectives around climate neutrality by 2050 and I don’t think anyone wants to step back from that I

don’t think anyone wants us to stop restoring nature I mean when you go for a walk in the countryside today and you

hear birds and I mean I must say around where we live it is just it would do you good to listen to Just and very early in

the morning sometimes but even in the evening out just listening to the the bird the wildlife that’s there so nobody

wants that destroyed past practice has damaged the landscape and the environment and we need to find ways of

addressing that and we need also to look at what we’re producing and how we’re producing and we can do that with

research so I don’t think it’s a case of rowing back it’s a case of having maybe listening a bit better and remember car

drivers are very upset about carbon tax people are worried about these things I mean somebody said to me recently that

two thirds of people in Europe are really Keen for um you know climate and

and environmental action and onethird aren’t I would make the point that even in the 23s when it comes to people

actually having to do something that’s when you’re really tested and I think if all of us are a bit honest about it we

all want to do our very best um but it can be very difficult to do that now the challenge for Europe is not only are we

worried about our um delivery on the green deal but competive itiveness is now a big topic so the inflation

reduction act in the US um Chinese subsidies all of these things our industry uh is concerned about its own

future our you know there’s just a genuine worry about our cost because Energy prices went up and then we’re

back to trying to invest in uh this more sustainable future which is why we hear

more about sustainability than green and sometimes the language does matter I drive a this sustainable Finance

framework so what we are doing is actually asking companies to report not just money but sustainability their

record on this investors then can look at these um metrics and decide who

they’re going to invest in for the future so we have an awful lot of the um elements in place to get towards our

targets it’s not a surprise to me that we’ve had blips along the way the way

and maybe one last word I think ideology versus pragmatism we need more pragmatism on this I think if it’s all

about ideology it alienates those who don’t feel so ideologically driven well then can I put a question to you that’s

a little about the ideology before I throw this out to the audience which is that increasingly looking around Europe

it would seem that the results of this forthcoming election may show quite a

swing to the right parties some of them are farmers parties some of them are anti-immigrant

parties um there are questions for instance to Ursula verion about her

relationship with Georgia Maloney uh who’s now in charge in in in Italy

are you fearful of a swing to the right I’m not fearful because I made the point about democracy I mean if in elections

people vote for for a change um to the right or left that’s the result you work

with you mentioned the relationship of uh the president of the commission with the prime minister of Italy she has to

have a working relationship with all prime ministers regardless of what political groups they’re with and she

manages those relationships very effectively I think the results of this election I mean there’s always headlines

about and speculation but when I chair debates and votes in particular in the European Parliament um it was very

noticeable that when I looked down the extreme right and the extreme left invariably voted the same way but for

different reasons H and that’s always fascinated me but it just you just you know I kind of go with yeah so so that’s

a reality the second observation is that there’s right there’s right and there’s far right and there’s further right and

there’s fragmented right and I think you need to be mindful that some people who

are extremely anything including extremely left don’t agree with each other because it’s very much a personal

view of that I have and in the um there’s the identity and democracy

political group in the parliament which I suppose is is the extreme right um very often they don’t agree internally

so they don’t always coales around a particular point there’s now the latest um news which is uh that the IFD the

German um uh party are now being pushed out of that group so so I think you need

to understand that the fragmentation of the the far right is quite significant so they may not be a force to reckon

with the ECR group is the next if you if I go away from the extreme to to a right

group um I work very well with colleagues in that group not all but some I and then my EP group are center

right and go then towards left it seems that there will be some movement from

the left towards the right but I think the center will hold um and and this is

the interesting thing about Europe no matter about election campaigns the only way you can actually make progress in

the European Parliament is working with other groups to get agreement so you can shout all you like on about something

and it’ll make a great video but if you’re really Keen to make progress or change so EP will have to to work with

others sometimes maybe with ECR sometimes maybe with liberals and socialists um and sometimes all will

agree so I think the fear of a vicious swing in One Direction is not the case I

suppose I’m old enough to realize that you know things do swing moods do swing

um and that’s why the migration conversation which we had which was brief is really important because what

I’ve been hearing would trouble me as well and it’s it’s not just extreme people are saying things now that

they’re hearing and they’re owning themselves without really thinking it through so but you can’t dismiss where

people are at on these topics we have to try and communicate a bit better and I think this this last um commission you

know under the leadership of underline I mean it’s been crisis after crisis after crisis and I think the incoming

Parliament and commission have now to take on with all of these things you know we have a migration pth we have to

implement it we have to look at our place in the world and how we can uh be

stronger internally so that we’re better externally um we have to work on the

wider development of on global issues and also on climate you know we’re a

small percentage of the global emissions that doesn’t mean that we should get a free pass and do nothing but it does

mean that if we don’t work with others then all we do will not be sufficient so

when we work on sustainable Finance we actually work with China on this as well so we have an international platform

where people that we have different views on on other topics we are working together on this we work on

International standards around sustainability reporting because our companies are Global and also because we

want the rest of the world to be on on the same Journey as we are so Europe alone on lots of topics cannot solve

these problems especially on climate um and that’s why um I would be concerned

not so much as you say that we we’ll move away from our targets uh but that the world if we did go in that direction

would would see itself as saying well if they’re not we’re not in fact we have a duty to lead in this because we developed using fossil fuels um we had

the benefit of all of that so I mean we do we do have a responsibility listen a

last question to you um in terms of whether you continue as our commissioner

May well be you know the lottery that is part of Coalition governments but if you

don’t continue as our commissioner would you run for the presidency could we have a show of hands

please because I couldn’t possibly answer that question myself um look I mean you know that I ran before um I’m a

great believer in life throws you what’s for you and things that I haven’t

succeeded on I’ve actually won in other words I ran for election in 2007 for um

the and I didn’t succeed in Lou but it didn’t upset I thought well that’s the right answer and and it was the right

answer because I stayed in the European Parliament and I felt I made a much bigger contribution than I could have had I been here I didn’t get the finail

nomination the last time around so I can say I’m not interested but I suppose I don’t know what I’m going to do next and

I quite like that idea the little bit of mystery I have said publicly as you know that I’m willing to serve again as

commissioner I mean I wasn’t meant to get this role as you know so it’s nearly been a great challenge that I did and

I’ve really relished being in the room um as you know I’m the only native

English speaker which is weird in the room of 27 It’s actually an advantage apparently because apparently I’m very clear um and

I suppose that’s that’s nice to hear um but of course as you said who will be

the next commissioner is for the government to make the decision and I will fully respect that and whoever he

or she is I will absolutely help them and support them it’s a really important job for Ireland whoever is in that role

um and we’ve sent very good people to serve us and I’ve been very lucky to have an opportunity to serve at this

level um but I also live on a sheep farm and it means that I’m very grounded so

if I’m struck for work there’s always sheep to be moved and any of you who

know sheep they have a mind of their own as my husband has CU he’s never very clear about where he’s moving them from

or to it’s a mystery and you have to just go with the flow so I’m very very

adaptable but it would be an honor I mean to serve as president of Ireland almost a scary honor um but as I said

I’ve never plotted and planned in that way and I think if things are for you they don’t pass you fair enough

commissioner marate mcginness thank you very [Applause]

much so a sincere thank you on your behalf to commissioner mcginness and also Olia liri I think he’ll agree was

the most enjoyable and thought-provoking discussion and provided evidence not

that we needed it as to how skillful and well-informed a politician you are and

there’s no doubt that Ireland has benefited over the last number of decades by having such a representative

in Brussels but actually also think that the European Union has benefited by having such a fantastic representative

on their behalf as well so M you are grounded uh and I do remember you on landmark and growing up in the South

tiary farming Community Landmark was a mustsee event I have to say and a must

listen to radio program was Martin Market because the beef prices and how they changed we listen to that really

very closely so you know it brings it all back and of course then you watch SE today tonight and all that and you and

you know about what a fantastic political commentator Olivia oi is but

also how should really asks all the challenging questions which she did this evening as well um but the type of

questions we may will have liked to ask as well so we’ve been very fortunate to have a discourse with two fantastic

people a to ask the questions and B to answer the questions I’d like to thank all of you for coming this evening I

hope you’ve enjoyed it and it’s an always a nice sign of how good a discourse is as to how ready people are

to ask questions so your participation at that level is really appreciated as well

this is the final Academia uh discourse in our current program the discourse series will recommence in October I know

you can’t wait and we’ll focus on different aspects of artificial intelligence or AI or for those of you

who don’t mix it up with Al which is the periodic table element aluminium so do

not do not make that mistake people have made that in the past as a chemist by the way I don’t make that mistake

details will be added to the academy website and we’ll have a brand new website coming your way in the next number of weeks as well www. r. as soon

as they will be available for any members of the academy and I do see some of you here this evening if you haven’t

already done so please sign the attendance book in the hall outside the library so again thank you all for

attending this evening’s discourse and do please join us now for Refreshments in the front

rooms mahair thank you so


Discourse Series

We live in turbulent times. The future feels less certain, war has returned to the European continent and the face of democracy is changing. In these troubled times, the European Union is grappling with its place in the world, security and defence, climate ambition and competitiveness. Enlargement is back on the agenda. Can the EU grow beyond 27 member states, how and when? Will the same rules work for a larger EU & as we move towards elections to the European Parliament can the centre hold?

Our Speakers

Mairead McGuinness

Mairead McGuinness is the European Commissioner for financial services, financial stability and Capital Markets Union. Before joining the Commission in October 2020, Ms McGuinness was First Vice-President of the European Parliament. She served as an MEP from Ireland for 16 years, and was a Vice-President of the Parliament since 2014.

Olivia O’Leary

Olivia O’Leary MRIA is a journalist, broadcaster, public commentator and writer of international standing. Her work praised for its perceptiveness, literary skill and humour makes an exceptional contribution to Irish society. O’Brien Press have published two volumes of her radio columns for RTÉ Drivetime: Politicians and Other AnimalsParty Animals. She was elected as a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2019.

Royal Irish Academy Discourse Series

Our discourses are the oldest and most renowned series of talks in Ireland. The first discourses were presented in 1786. Historically, Academy discourses were the occasion reserved for the most distinguished academics to first reveal and discuss their research in public. Continuing in this tradition, the Discourse Series brings international experts to the Academy to discuss important contemporary issues in front of a live audience.

Discourse Series

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