Media Library

News Releases

Statement by President Higgins following a meeting of the Arraiolos Group of EU Presidents

Date: Wed 15th Sep, 2021 | 17:27

Dear friends,

May I begin by thanking our host, Sergio Mattarella, President of Italy, for hosting today’s meeting, for such an important discussion of topics.

This annual Arraiolos Group, established in 2003 by former President Jorge Sampaio, is a meeting of non-executive Presidents. Today, at our meeting here in Rome, we have been honoured to be able to build on his legacy and vision.

It was an honour to take part in these discussions, at a time when we face not just great challenges but indeed interacting crises.

This year’s meeting of our forum discussed, inter alia, options for the future of the EU in a post-pandemic world. 

We were able to touch on a wide range of important issues and as we continue to address the pandemic, we must learn the lessons of living with an inadequate analysis and response to the financial crisis, and we must ensure we connect with the European street seeking to forge an urgently needed connection between ecology, economics, ethics and justice. 

It is my hope that our planning for the years ahead will include a reflection on the assumptions that led to the current legacy of ecological irresponsibility, and our galloping journey towards, and spreading an ideology of, an economy without morals. 

The European Street has in the aspirations of its citizens sought a Europe that is much more than a zone of economic cooperation in matters of coal and steel, and technocratic arrangements; A vision of Europe so well reflected in the spirit of the Ventotene Manifesto. 

The peoples of Europe continue to seek a vision of a Europe that transcends borders and lines of division; a Europe that celebrates diversity, that embraces a respectful and sustainable relationship with our natural environment, and a form of economy that delivers on a promise of sustainability. 

We must, drawing on the strength of reason in the European tradition, also respond in the language of the heart, and consider values such as care, solidarity, compassion, and kindness.

And in all of this, Human Rights will be very important. As President of Ireland I am very pleased that we, in the Presidency of the United Nations Security Council, have been emphasising the importance of being unambiguous about the rights of women and girls in the new circumstances of Afghanistan.

We have, of course, in our discussions this afternoon also addressed our failures. Our failures in relation to the transfer of vaccinations, and particularly in relation to Africa, our neighbour.

We have failed Africa. And we have to accept, as well, the need to pool technology, the transfer of capacity to protect from pandemics, and the need to transfer science and technology in a way that will enable our neighbours to achieve sustainability.

I believe our discussions here today were very fruitful, and I was delighted with such a positive discourse. We made significant progress, and there are so many areas of shared purpose.

And we had an opportunity to make contact with the consciousness that is there in the world, to do things entirely differently.