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Von der Leyen says Ireland’s handling of the pandemic is 'exemplary'

The European Commission President welcomed that Ireland has signed up to the EU Green Cert system.

Updated Jul 16th 2021, 12:06 PM

DURING HER VISIT to Dublin today, the President of the European Commission has said she believed “Ireland is exemplary in how it has approached this pandemic”.

Ursula von der Leyen said Ireland had put in an excellent performance “where delivery of vaccines is concerned, and the response of this country”.

“I can only commend you,” she said to Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

“I have looked at the numbers and developments over the last six months before coming here and Ireland is exemplary in the way it has approached this pandemic with all the difficulties we faced and overcome together.”

When asked if the advice from Ireland’s public health experts that people should not travel abroad unless vaccinated undermines the European approach to the Digital Covid Green Certificate, she said she welcomed that Ireland had now joined the Covid Cert system.

“I just today had the opportunity to test it, it works fine,” she said.

“All our member states, and Ireland too, have always the possibility and responsibility to look at the regional epidemiological situation and adapt,” she said when asked to comment on Ireland’s slow approach to reopen indoor dining and use antigen tests more widely.

While there are a common set of approaches, countries in the EU have a responsibility to look at the regional epidemiological situation and “adapt”, if they feel it is needed given the Delta variant, she said.

The Commission president met the Taoiseach at the Technological University Dublin, Grangegorman as part of an EU tour von der Leyen is doing to discuss economic revival after the pandemic.

The European Union’s NextGenerationEU recovery instrument, along with the Union’s trillion Euro budget for the next seven years, and the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), will give grants and loans to countries.

Ireland is to receive almost a billion Euro in grants over the lifetime of the facility.

In order to access this funding, Ireland has developed the National Recovery & Resilience Plan for approval by the European Union. The plan, which has a total value of €990 million, sets out the reforms and investments to be supported by the facility. 

The Taoiseach said today that the plan is focused on three priorities – advancing the Green Transition, accelerating and expanding digital reforms and transformation and supporting social and economic recovery and job creation. 

The Taoiseach and the president also discussed Covid-19 and vaccines, EU/UK relations and the Commission’s new “fit for 55” package of measures to support climate action.

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The meeting comes at a time of tension between the UK and EU over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Martin said he expected the Protocol to feature in their discussions.

When asked if the political will existed to sort out operational issues on Protocol, the Commission president said the protocol “is the solution”.

“We have shown huge flexibility, creativity and pragmatism,” she added.

The Taoiseach agreed, stating that the EU Commission has shown flexibility and a “generosity of spirit”.

He said the mechanisms are there to resolve any outstanding issues.

- With reporting from PA 

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