Yesterday, Wednesday June 17th, we had the chance to visit the building of the Prime Minister of Ireland, in the South Georgian Core. Aesthetically, a much nicer building from the outside, in my opinion, compared to the Irish Parliament we had visited the day before: an architecturally uniform palace, offering a rather imposing façade with white pillars facing a circular fountain.
We were brought to a conference room where we had the pleasure of being briefed by three speakers, notably the Director of Strategic Policy of Ireland to the European Union. I consider this briefing to have been one of the most (if not THE most) comprehensive, complete and richest in terms of information and facts delivered by the speaker we have had so far. This woman impressed me, for she talked about an immense range of topical issues, probably all of the relevant issues that surround the EU nowadays, with such precision and in such detail that revealed a rare expertise and mastery of every domain.
Before stating the agenda of the Council of Ministers for their upcoming meeting in June, we had some insight on the role that Ireland plays within the EU and its views on certain issues. The role of Ireland in EU’s climate change policies, especially with reducing emission, is very positive: given that Ireland’s landscape is very green and natural, and since agriculture is the most active economic sector, it is environmentally friendly. If we think about it from another perspective, it means that unfortunately Ireland cannot give a substantial contribution to the reduction of emissions in the EU; there is very little margin for progress in this sector. Furthermore, I understand that the economic and financial crisis has slowed down even more the projects of improvement in energy efficiency and exploitation of renewable energies.
An area where Ireland is very active, on the other hand, is diplomacy and negotiations, especially over the issue of “Brexit”. Being a very close trade partner of the UK, Ireland wants to play a very constructive role and is open to any reasonable proposals made by the British. For the good of the EU, I hope that Ireland’s push for the UK to remain in the Union will have a positive outcome; however, I am skeptical. In fact, in such a period of economic and financial crisis, the UK’s absence from the Eurozone and from the Banking Union that is being set up by the Council of Ministers has inevitably led to diverging financial paths and measures. Along with that, given how much the monetary integration of Europe is increasing, with all the recent members adhering little by little, I suspect the British might have the feeling of being isolated and hence less involved in the institutional decision making process of the EU in general.
The wide range of explanations and insight that the director gave us also included the question of migration. A point of increasing concern for the EU, especially for the Southern/Mediterranean members of the Union. It is not the first time I observed one of our speakers addressing this matter, and every time there is a lack of clarity, in my opinion, regarding how the EU intends to help those countries with this issue. This time, however, we were given for the first time some tangible information about what the EU has thought about doing. The idea is to create a policy based on the country’s population and the actual number of refugees that are illegally in the country, which would enable them to relocate a certain number of refugees back to their countries. A promising start, but now concrete action should be taken. It is not a new problem, it has been lasting for too long, and it is has caused considerable damage to countries like Italy, Greece and Spain, who are already struggling with their domestic economical problems. In the name of the solidarity and integrity of the Union, I am firmly convinced that the EU should act quickly in this matter, and should prioritize this issue that has been underestimated or left in standby for too long.
Along with these issues, the agenda of the Council lists security issues such as the Ukraine crisis, climate change, energy, financial and fiscal issues. On the latter, there is a priority for the EU, which is establishing a common fiscal policy. Despite the common currency, some economists believe that the crisis derives from the various different fiscal policies in each member states; and this makes it even more difficult for the EU to help with the recovery to happen through common coordinated policies.
After this thought-provoking visit, we had a relaxed afternoon. Unfortunately, our visit at the jail has been canceled, so we ended up visiting one of the symbols of the city of Dublin, and Ireland in general: the Guinness factory! After spending four months of Belgium, the land of beer, this visit allowed a very interesting comparison. I remember François proudly telling me that Belgium had the biggest brewery in the world; yesterday, our taxi driver, on the way to the factory, told me the same thing about the Guinness brewery of Dublin… So who is right? What do you think?
The pictures speak for themselves! How those ingredients are manipulated throughout the process of elaboration of Guinness is “absolutely fascinating”, as the presenter in the video of the museum said. A succession of very meticulous steps leads to the final elaboration of Guinness. Brewing firstly, followed by roasting, mashing, boiling, fermentation and finally maturation. Have a look at the pictures if you want to refresh your memories!
Finally, last but not least (or should I say BEST), we had the pleasure and privilege of tasting a beer with our teachers! The perfect end to an intense day, a relaxed moment in a fantastic panoramic bar.