Seanad Statements on Ireland’s bid for the European Banking Authority
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29th November 2017
Minister of State Michael D’Arcy, T.D.
Fáiltím roimh an deis labhairt leis an Seanad ar an ábhar tábhachtach seo. Cathaoirleach and Senators, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the discussion on Ireland’s bid for the European Banking Authority. We also had a useful discussion in the Dáil last week.
As you are aware, last week Ministers from the EU 27 Member States, decided where to locate the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) when the UK leaves the EU. This was a real and visible example of how the EU is moving on in the light of the UK voters’ decision to leave the Union.
Both processes were hotly contested with 8 countries in the running for the European Banking Authority and 19 for the European Medicines Agency. The decision on both counts came down to the drawing of lots and in the end Paris was confirmed as the new host of the EBA and Amsterdam as the host for the EMA.
Ireland had submitted two credible bids to host either the European Medicines Agency or the European Banking Authority. The Irish bids were seen by other Member States and the EU Commission, as strong due to the size of our pharmaceutical and financial services sectors, the fact that Ireland has a large number of global companies based here from those sectors and we also have a significant number of skilled workers with relevant experience in both sectors. Connectivity to other parts of the Union was also noted as being good in the case of the Irish bids.
In addition Ireland was seen as one of the locations that would be least disruptive to the important work of the two agencies and to their staff and families as they relocated.
As the process advanced, we decided to concentrate our efforts on the EBA campaign. This allowed us to allocate our resources onto one bid, and like a number of other Member States we formally withdrew our candidacy for the European Medicines Agency shortly before the bidding process closed.
The bids for both agencies involved intensive work by Government to showcase Ireland as a modern developed economy that is outward looking and has the proven ability to host large modern entities. The bid documents detailed Ireland’s rich historical and cultural roots as well as the cultural diversity of modern Ireland. The European Commission’s analysis of both our bids was strong and was also recognised by our European Partners during political and official engagement to seek support.
Building support and engagement
The process of building support for our European Banking Authority bid involved engagement with all Member States. This involved a number of Ministerial visits to capitals, including my own visits to nine Member States over a two week period in late September. Our bid was also promoted through engagement by Ministers and officials from the Department of Finance and the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade on the margins of meetings held in Europe and elsewhere. Contact was also made through our Embassy network as well as with the relevant foreign embassies in Dublin. Indeed, our embassy network proved to be invaluable in our efforts.
Support and voting process
As a result of all of these engagements, it was widely held that Ireland had a well thought out and professionally presented bid and was a credible and strong candidate to host the European Banking Authority. Ireland received strong support in the first and second rounds of the contest and secured the support of 12 other Member States from right across the Union.
This strong support for our bid remained despite the fact that two larger member states – France and Germany – were also in the final stages. Our support came from founding Member States, the Nordic and Baltic Member States, new Member States from the East and from Member States in the Mediterranean region.
The European Banking Authority plays a vital role in the European system of Financial Supervision and it is essential that its work, which helps to protect consumers and contributes to the Union’s financial stability, continues during the transition. What is most important now is that there is a smooth transition and successful relocation for the Authority.
Learnings and conclusion
In all of our engagements throughout the bidding process it was clear that we are seen as a good neighbour by our European colleagues and we are seen by many of the newer Member States as a country that they can learn from.
Finally, I believe it is important for us to recognise the efforts made at political level and by officials from the relevant departments involved in the two bids. This was a highly competitive process and to get to the final round was a major achievement and to have it be decided by the drawing of lots makes the outcome even more disappointing.
But, while disappointing, Ireland obtained support from across the Union and across regional blocks. That was due to the professionalism we showed in preparing our bids, the strong message which we had, and the way that we went about building support for our case. During that process it was clear that Ireland is held in high regard by our fellow Member States and I believe that this will stand to us in the future.
It is important for us to remember that despite the disappointment of losing out, we have proven that even as a small Member State we can mobilise our resources in Government Departments and Overseas Missions to convert that positive view of Ireland into tangible support when we need to.
As such, the job at hand is now is to build on this momentum and I know we will.
Ireland put forward a strong and competitive bid for the European Banking Authority and this was supported by a robust programme of engagement with all Member States.
In all of these engagements it was clear that Ireland is seen as a respected mature player by other Member States. This level of respect has not grown overnight, or come about in the last few years, but has been built up over the last 44 years of our membership of the European Union.
The proof of this respect is evident in the level of support we achieved in the vote for the EBA through successive rounds of voting.
This support held fast – despite the fact that two larger Member States – France and Germany – were also in the final stages.
It is clear that the expertise and relationships that our officials – home and abroad – have with their counterparts across Europe is hugely important. These relationships allow us “get in the door” to put forward our case when needed.
Also, the fact that we were willing to travel to meet Member States on their home ground gained us a lot of credit. Again the role of our embassies and the connections that our officials have with their counterparts is key in enabling such visits to occur.
The UK’s decision to leave the EU is regrettable and one that will have negative consequences for all of us on these Islands. However, it does not mean that we are without allies among the EU 27, many of whom share similar views for the future of the EU. We have proven that we can build a body of support from across the Union that allows us to have our voice heard throughout the continent.
The onus on us now is to ensure that we maintain that ability and enhance it further for the uncertain future we face.