During his visit to the Hertie School, Irish Deputy Minister Micheál Martin spoke about Jacques Delors, European Union enlargement, and upcoming European Union elections.
On January 18, the Hertie School had the honour of hosting Irish Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Micheál Martin as part of his official visit to Germany. Martin also holds the office of Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence. The discussion was opened by Johannes Lindner, Co-Director of the Jacques Delors Centre, which organised the event in cooperation with Freie Universität Berlin. After a keynote speech by the Deputy Minister, there was a discussion with Thu Nguyen, Deputy Director of the Jacques Delors Centre, and a Q&A session with members of the Hertie School community.
In his keynote speech, the Tánaiste highlighted the importance of the late former European Union Commissioner Jacques Delors for the EU. The namesake of the Hertie School’s Jacques Delors Centre, the Hertie School's research centre and think tank on European policy, “was truly one of the great Europeans of the 20th century”, without whom the European Union would not be what it is today, he said.
We should embrace enlargement, not fear it
Martin positioned himself strongly in favour of EU enlargement. “We should embrace the process of enlargement, not fear it,” he argued. He named Ireland, one of the smallest countries in the EU in terms of population and deemed too poor to join when it became a member in 1973, as a poster child for success.
Beyond Europe’s borders
Turning to Europe’s borders, Martin highlighted the migration and asylum pact as an important symbol of solidarity despite not being the perfect solution. Looking east, he said that Ireland and Europe’s support for Ukraine remains steadfast, and underlined that this support needs to be financially ensured. Martin also stressed that the EU must uphold its values in the Middle East by condemning both the attacks by Hamas and the humanitarian situation inflicted upon the population of Gaza. Europe must be consistent in its response to violence, for “no amount of institutional reform or changes will undo irreparable damage […] upon the European Union’s international reputation”.
“We can never stop communicating with the people”
In a discussion with Deputy Director of the Jacques Delors Centre Thu Nguyen, Martin spoke about the importance of communication and the upcoming EU elections. “We can never stop […] communicating to the public the benefits of the European Union.” The public needs to be shown how valuable the European Union is, as well as how urgent related reforms and enlargement are, he argued.
On the topic of the upcoming EU elections, Martin pointed out that “Brexit was a wake-up call” as to what can happen without the EU. It is crucial that people believe in the EU, and “we have to do better in communicating a vision of a future that matters”, he said. From Ireland’s perspective, the economic benefits of the European Union are “vital and beneficial”.
In a Q&A session, members of the Hertie School community asked Martin about democratic backsliding and the potential for more countries to leave the European Union, as well as about the future of the relationship between Ireland and the United Kingdom and EU security mechanisms.
Watch the full recording of the event here.