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President Higgins: ‘Lack of public confidence in the EU cannot go unchecked’

Speaking at a conference today, President Higgins said it was time to go back to the values that were central to the establishment of the European Union.

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has said that if the fall in public confidence in the European Union goes unchecked it could “lead to a crisis of legitimacy and accountability and the erosion of solidarity between Member States.

Speaking at the Conference of the Committees of the National Parliaments of the European Union Member States dealing with European Affairs (COSAC), the president said that there was “no doubt” that the  EU was facing profound changes, adding that public confidence in the EU has fallen to “historically low levels”.

Accountability

He said that if this trend was to continue it could lead to a crisis, adding that it was important for elected representatives to look for accountability.

He said that Europe’s citizens have been experiencing severe disappointment “in our institutions and their policy responses, particularly our banking institutions in which so many had placed their trust”.  He said that there was nothing more corrosive to society and more crushing to its citizens than endemic unemployment, particularly among the young. He said:

The crisis we currently face is one caused in part by the failure of a particular system of ideas; by the failure of models of economy and society and their connection that were often invested with claims of certainty; and by the failure of policy makers and other leaders to adequately challenge prevailing assumptions and models which were regarded as unquestionable.

Higgins said that it was time to “recall the values that were central to the establishment of our Union and ensure these citizenship focused standards predominate in policy making”. He said:

Those values are set out clearly in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union. They are strong and compelling values which include human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.

President Higgins concluded his speech by stating that:

We cannot allow an economic crisis caused by speculation and unregulated markets which operated in an ethical vacuum to stall the progress of humanity, ensuring that one billion global citizens remain consigned to lives of relentless hardship and hunger.

Europe must take its rightful place in leading the global collaboration on poverty eradication and in the fight against hunger. To abandon this responsibility would be the greatest betrayal of the promise of Europe.

Read: Eurozone bailout fund gives Ireland seven more years to repay loans>

Column: People don’t trust Europe – but that can be changed>

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