Fine Gael has released this video of the Taoiseach explaining why “Europe is coming to Ireland”. YouTube: Fine Gael
EUROPE’S LARGEST POLITICAL party is gathering in Dublin today for its annual congress with German chancellor Angela Merkel among a dozen EU heads of State who will be in the country today.
The European People’s Party, of which Fine Gael is a member, will select its candidate for the presidency of the European Commission with the incumbent, Jose Manuel Barroso, stepping down after May’s European elections.
Some of the most senior politicians in Europe will arrive in the capital later today after attending an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Europe in Brussels where the Ukrainian crisis is being discussed.
Two politicians are vying to be the EPP candidacy for the Commission, including current EU trade commissioner Michel Barnier and former Luxembourg prime minister and Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker. Ex-Latvia prime minister Valdis Dombrovskis withdrew his candidacy last night.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny had been long-speculated about as a possible candidate, but firmly ruled himself out at the weekend. Hundreds of delegates will elect their choice tomorrow with the result announced around lunchtime.
Though the visit of Merkel, her first to Ireland, will be closely watched there will also be much focus on the visit of recently-released Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister imprisoned under the regime of the now ousted Viktor Yanukovych.
The opposition leader will join her country’s newly-elected prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and opposition figure and former heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko at the conference in the Convention Centre.
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Fine Gael and ex-Fine Gael presence
The trio are due to address delegates during a plenary session this afternoon before the arrival of 12 EU Heads of States, Barroso and European Council president Herman van Rompuy – all of whom will be welcomed by Kenny this evening before a behind-closed-doors meeting.
Kenny, Merkel, Barroso, van Rompuy, Rajoy, EPP president Joseph Daul and the leaders of Portugal, Greece, Finland and Poland, are all due to speak tomorrow afternoon.
Fine Gael representation will be strong at the event with party chairman Charlie Flanagan also among those who will address delegates.
One other notable attendee will be former Europe minister Lucinda Creighton who remains a vice president of the EPP having been elected prior to being expelled from Fine Gael last summer.
Kenny will hold meetings with Merkel and Rajoy on the fringes of the congress with a press conference with the German chancellor scheduled to take place at Government Buildings tomorrow.
Some 2,000 people are expected to attended over the course of the two days. A protest against the congress is being organised by left-leaning, anti-austerity groups with demonstrators intending to march from Liberty Hall to the Convention Centre this evening.
The EPP is currently the largest European-level political party of the centre-right with 73 member-parties from 39 countries.
It controls the presidencies of the Commission and the European Council, has 13 members of the European Commission and is the largest group in the European Parliament.
It faces a battle with the Socialists and Democrats – of which the Irish Labour Party is a member of – to retain that position in the European elections taking place across the continent in May. Polls show the two groupings neck-and-neck.