The agenda of the opening session of the new European Parliament included a report on the Irish Presidency of the EU. Opening the debate, the Taoiseach, Mr Bertie Ahern TD, summarised Irelandʼs attitudes and achievements;

"The first and most basic principle that informed our approach was that Europe must work and must be seen to work for its people. Too often, the debate on European issues can drift into a world of jargon and theory. In doing so it runs a real risk of losing the attention and, in due course, the support of its citizens. We need to focus on the key concerns of the citizen: jobs, social and environmental protection, peace and security. They have been the ingredients of Europe's success. They must remain at the centre of our attention as leaders, legislators and Europeans. The second principle that has underpinned our approach to Europe has been
the principle of fairness. Whether you are large or small - as Ireland is - rules matter. The fair, even-handed and transparent application of those rules matters even more"

Referring to the Inter-Governmental agreement on a proposed EU
Constitution, Mr Ahern said; "We have enhanced the democratic legitimacy of the European Union by extending the powers of the European Parliament. We have also strengthened the role of national parliaments and opened the Council of Ministers to more public scrutiny. We have clarified the division of powers between the Union and the Member States. It is now clear how decisions are taken, and who is entitled to take them. The principles of subsidiarity and proportionality have also been strengthened."

Significant problems remain for Scotland in the text of the Constitution, but it clearly does re-affirm the status of independent member states as the main driving force in the enlarged EU, illustrating very clearly that Independence is essential for Scotland if we are to gain, as Ireland has, maximum benefit from membership.

Ireland, a member state smaller than Scotland, has provided inspiration to those of us who aspire to see Scotland resuming all of the normal powers of an independent nation, speaking for ourselves in the International Community.

I look forward to the day when Scots ministers will sit alongside Irish in the Council of Ministers, as equal partners with full rights to negotiate and vote, putting Scotland's interests first and not, as at present, merely acting as bagcarriers for their Westminster bosses.

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