Bussola Institute’s Dublin Event Showcases Unique Experience on Engagement with the EU

The Bussola Institute, an independent non-governmental Brussels-based research institute, held a series of events in Dublin last week on the theme of Tolerance, Diversity and Inclusion. The Bussola Institute promotes multicultural relations between the Arab Gulf States and the European Union on political, social, economic, security and cultural issues that affect policy making in Europe and across the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) region. Members of the Institute’s high-profile Honorary Advisory Board, which includes former European Prime Ministers, a former European Commissioner and a former President, met at Farmleigh House, the prestigious Irish State guest house in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. The Honorary Advisory Board heard a series of presentations entitled “Lessons for the Future Navigation of the Relationships between EU and GCC Countries” from four highly experienced and dynamic individuals who have helped to put Ireland at the centre of the EU. These included Ms Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, former EU Commissioner and Irish Government Minister, Mr. Bobby McDonagh, Deputy Secretary General at the Irish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Bishop Noel Treanor, former General Secretary of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community and Mr. Ciarán Madden, Irish Consul General in New York, former Ambassador of Ireland to the UAE and former Director for the Middle East and North Africa at the Irish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The event was also addressed by Mr. Pat Breen, TD, Irish Minister for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection who hosted a lunch discussion and Mr. Simon Coveney, TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Ireland’s chief Brexit negotiator who provided a briefing on Brexit and on Foreign Trade Agreements between the EU and GCC countries. Board Members heard how effective networking at both national and at European levels were key to influencing in the European context but that the complexity of Europe’s Institutions requires enormous patience and calls for the clear articulation of priorities. They also heard that, despite a regular focus on its differences and shortcomings, the EU is an extraordinary achievement that has delivered a European continent that is democratic, prosperous and at peace. It has transformed a Europe that was constantly at war, replacing the senseless pooling of blood with the judicious pooling of sovereignty.   While larger Member States might carry more weight under the qualified majority voting system, every Member State, irrespective of its size, has a respected voice and a significant role. A key lesson for Bussola Institute arising from the presentations is the over-riding importance of understanding and accommodating the interests of others and the importance of alliance-building and influencing was also emphasised. In relation to the overall theme of Tolerance, Diversity and Inclusion, the Board members heard that Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty introduced for the first time a legal basis for an open, transparent and regular dialogue between the EU institutions and churches, religious associations and philosophical and non-confessional organisations. The case for this fundamental change in the European treaties had been developed over a number of years and the message for Bussola Institute was that patience, networking and determination are essential in effecting change in Europe. Insights were also provided on the changing nature of the relationship between the EU and the GCC and the enormous potential for the future development of this relationship if discussions on a Free Trade Agreement can be advanced. Board members were told that a successful conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement would represent an outstanding achievement for both regions and would send a remarkably positive signal in a global climate increasingly characterised by retrenchment and protectionism. The lunch discussion was framed by an input on the trading relationships between the EU and the Gulf Countries, with a particular emphasis on the growth of trade and cultural relations between Ireland and the UAE. It was noted that the UAE had been successful in diversifying its economy in recent years and is strategically focusing on tourism and business. These developments will provide an important basis for future economic cooperation between the EU and GCC countries. Members of the Honorary Advisory Board and Bussola representatives were given a detailed overview of Brexit negotiations to date, including the position on the Withdrawal Treaty, citizens’ rights, financial commitments and the complexities of the Irish border issue. It was emphasised that, while the absence of a clear political direction in the UK was leading to continuing uncertainty in the process, one positive outcome to date has been the extent of solidarity among the remaining 27 Member States on the critical issues surrounding Brexit, including the Irish border issue. This very successful event was hosted in Dublin by former President of Ireland and Bussola Honorary Advisory Board member, Dr. Mary McAleese. The visit also marked the establishment of a partnership between Bussola Institute and Dublin City University through the signing of an MoU signifying the establishment of a collaborative partnership to develop world class research and promote innovative thinking and actions in the areas of tolerance, diversity and inclusion, particularly as they impact on fostering and enhancing relations between countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council and the EU. On the occasion of the signing the President of Dublin City University said, “I am convinced that two such formidable research institutions, working together, will contribute greatly to scholarly research in this field”. The Honorary Board Members also engaged in a program to celebrate the shared cultural heritage of Europe and the Arab World through focused visit to the National Museum of Ireland and a special viewing of the celebrated Book of Kells at Trinity College Dublin. Ends.
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