Oxfam's EU Advocacy office in Brussels

Ireland’s six month EU presidency comes at a crucial moment for the Union, facing vital decisions on policies and a budget that will shape Europe and its role in the world in the next seven years and beyond.

With various opportunities to be seized on the agenda, Ireland has a clear role in steering leadership and decisive action from the EU to effectively address key global challenges such as poverty, hunger and climate change.

But for the EU to be a strong global player, it must first have the requisite means to its ends. The first round of negotiations on the EU long term budget has shown that, in these austere times, there are few ‘friends of development’ who stand ready to protect the EU’s humanitarian and development aid from the fierce bargaining to reach a compromise on the amount of the EU budget for the next 7 years. With the second round of negotiations in February, Ireland has a chance to make its mark by defending the EU’s promises to the world’s poorest. As a long-time advocate of cooperation, the Irish presidency can work to reverse the disproportional proposed cuts and to preserve a high quality and impactful investment in our future from devastating and short-sighted cuts.

Innovative sources of funding such as the Financial Transactions Tax (FTT) can significantly contribute to tackle poverty and climate change. This is why we encourage Ireland and other member states to join the coalition that has decided to go ahead with the tax. And this is also why we urge EU leaders to ensure that a significant part of the estimated €37 billion revenues of the FTT goes to fight poverty in Europe and abroad and to fund the Green Climate Fund.

If just a quarter of these revenues were allocated to the Fund, EU leaders could guarantee to replenish it with almost €10 billion a year. The Fund currently still stands empty, despite the commitments made in Copenhagen to scale up climate finance to at least $100 billion per year by 2020 to help communities facing the continued impacts of climate change.

Another key area of reform that the Irish Presidency must take on is the regulation of financial markets to avoid excessive speculation on food commodities. We call on the Irish delegation to ensure that, during ongoing negotiations on the revision of the directive known as the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID), member states move swiftly to confirm and toughen up the proposed rules that introduce mandatory limits on harmful speculations which are fuelling price volatility and hunger.

But shifting from recurring food crises to food justice also requires changing policies that put food into fuel tanks. We hope the Presidency will back our call to rule out support for biofuels that compete with food for crops, water and land and push global food prices up and people off their land.

On the humanitarian front, we call on the Irish Presidency to promote policies to build resilient and food secure communities through flexible programming and funding and a combination of emergency responses and long term investments including in social protection, social services, small scale agriculture and good governance.

Finally, we also urge the Irish government to steer a meaningful European contribution to the post 2015 global framework for a sustainable future. The next set of global development goals will, we hope, prioritize bridging inequalities to promote prosperity for all.

Ireland clearly has the experience and potential to have a meaningful EU Presidency. Let’s hope this success extends beyond the borders of the EU and creates positive and lasting change where it’s needed most.

Click here to read more about Oxfam’s policy recommendations to the Irish EU Presidency.

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