Wednesday, 13th February 2013
I thank the Acting Chairman for facilitating me and allowing me to speak. I apologise that I had to leave the Chamber briefly because I had to attend the internal meeting that also detained Senator Cummins. However, I was present for Ms Prendergast’s intervention at the beginning. I welcome her.
I still feel relatively new here but the issues that I wish to mention today relate to the Single Market and the multi-annual financial framework. I want to question her specifically on those issues given her work on the Internal Market and her opening comments. As we know 2012 represented the 20th anniversary of the European Single Market. The development of the Single Market is a key priority and it is a key priority for the Irish Presidency. However, we are all very aware that it remains incomplete and Ms Prendergast mentioned where it is incomplete in her intervention. During the Single Market week held in October 2012 there was an opportunity for the private sector and citizens to engage, on a personal level, in the European policy area. I shall mention four of the areas that were raised then. Perhaps Ms Prendergast can enlighten us and share her opinions on the concerns raised. First, access to the market of a host country can be restricted by national certification or regulations that do not exist to the same extent in the home country. For me that goes against the principle of a Single Market and single area.
Second, cross-border procurement can be a problem. This is the age of electronic and online technology but many procurement procedures require a hard copy to be delivered rather than use electronic means.
Third, e-commerce is very popular at national level but it is more difficult at international level. We are very aware of the different regulations for areas such as consumer protection and data privacy and that makes things difficult. The playing field is uneven or unequal when it comes to e-commerce.
The fourth area related to European start-ups and that surprised me. On average, European start-ups are only entitled to half the amount of venture funding of their US counterparts. Is there a way to redress that imbalance? We must ensure that we have an even playing field between the US and the EU if we want to encourage start-ups. Ireland is extremely interested in promoting entrepreneurship.
Many of these issues will be addressed by the Single Market Act which is in its final stages of implementation. It always seems to be problematic to reach a completed option. The adoption of the Act should be expedited because it is a job-creating opportunity for Ireland, the Irish Presidency and the EU. I would welcome Ms Prendergast’s opinion on the Act.
As Ms Prendergast has informed us, the Commission recently introduced the Single Market Act II. To what extent does the second Act address the issues that were identified by the consultations, the four areas that I repeated here, during the Single Market week? To what extent does it fill the gaps left by the first Act? I would appreciate anything she has to share with us on that matter.
Last week was an interesting, exciting and challenging week for us all, both personally and stamina wise. For me the negotiations that took place in Brussels on the multi-annual financial framework at the European Council summit were extremely important and I am very aware of the Parliament’s role. I am also very aware that Ms Prendergast has previously stated that the budget must do more to stimulate growth in the European economy. I know that the Parliament will be looking at the multi-annual financial framework and the proposals on the budget. I want Ms Prendergast to tell us, as a preliminary opinion, whether she supports the proposals by the European Council. Does she think they go far enough? I thank the Acting Chairman and Ms Prendergast.