Newsletter Spring 2020 - Frances Fitzgerald MEP
I hope this update finds you as well as possible given the current circumstances. The COVID-19 emergency has impacted all of our lives. My deepest sympathies to those who are dealing with the illness or the loss of a loved one. We must all pull together during these difficult and unprecedented times.
I have had a busy few months since my last update and of course my work is now primarily focused on the European response to the Coronavirus.
The work of the European Parliament continues. MEPs are working from home and participating in Committee meetings and voting session remotely. Earlier this month a Plenary session was held to pass a number of emergency resolutions on the EU response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have been working on issues related to my committees, Economic & Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) and the Women’s Rights & Gender Equality Committee (FEMM) and taking part in broader consultations in relation to protecting our democracies, economies and societies - the main focus has clearly been on how we tackle the Coronavirus emergency. There is no doubt that the Coronavirus is the biggest test of European Solidarity in a generation.
It has certainly been a change to how we normally work, and as I’m sure many of you who are also working from home know, there are technical difficulties from time to time! But I do truly believe democracy shouldn’t be stopped by a virus. It is important to me that all MEPs continue to represent the voters who elected them even during these difficult times.
EU Response to Coronavirus
There’s no doubt that the EU was slow off the mark in responding to the crisis. Communication was not as effective as it could have been and there was little coordination in restrictions and lockdown measures. But since then, the EU has taken some extraordinary measures.
The Eurogroup managed to agree a financial package worth €500 billion for governments, businesses and citizens in the space of two weeks. During the Eurozone crisis in 2010, it took two years to agree a similar sized package which only applied to government debt.
The European Central bank has made €750 billion available to Eurozone governments. The EIB plans to mobilise over €200 billion to support businesses, especially SMEs, across Europe. And a variety of other financial and non-financial measures have been taken.
I was delighted that the European Parliament played its part by adopting a series of emergency measures to support the most vulnerable countries and citizens deal with crisis.
In addition, we passed a wide-ranging resolution that sets out the Parliament’s position on the EU’s coronavirus response and calls for a massive recovery package to get the European economy back up and running. I’ll be working to make this a reality in the coming weeks and months ahead.
For more information on how the EU is helping Ireland get through this crisis visit:
My committee work continues:
Economic & Monetary Affairs Committee - ECON
The work of the ECON Committee has become extremely important given that the current crisis has developed from a healthcare crisis to an economic and financial crisis. Last week we had an Exchange of Views with Mario Centeno, the President of the Eurogroup (the Eurozone’s group of 19 Finance Ministers), regarding the economic package that was agreed by Finance Ministers on April 9th. This week we will have another ECON Committee meeting with the Vice President of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, and Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Paolo Gentiloni on the economic impact and the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Committee will also deal with emergency legislation to ensure that European banks have the capacity to lend to businesses and households during the crisis.
Women & Gender Equality Committee - FEMM
The coronavirus crisis has really brought home the inequality between women and men that still exists in our homes, workplaces, communities and society. 70% of healthcare workers throughout Europe are women and women are now often taking a disproportionate burden of childcare within the home through this period. In addition, domestic violence is a major concern for many during confinement. I was delighted therefore to have these points recognised in the EPP Group’s position paper on coronavirus acknowledging that more needs to be done to tackle domestic violence during this time, as well as consideration of a new European Carer’s Strategy.
In terms of other work within the committee, the European Commission launched their Gender Equality Strategy in early March, and we in the Parliament will be following up on this with a report in the coming months. In addition, I am shadow rapporteur on a report on “The situation of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU, in the frame of women’s health” that I will be working on also in the next few months.
Development Committee - DEVE
The Coronavirus is having a devastating impact in Europe, however, its effect could be much more detrimental in developing countries where medical resources are scarce, and the economic impact will be felt in a much deeper way. The DEVE Committee met last week to discuss the impact of the pandemic on developing countries with Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnerships, and Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management. The Committee will continue to monitor the situation in developing countries and will work to ensure necessary support from the EU.
Supporting Local Media
During these difficult times it is important to support local media and that we continue to buy a paper even if it is online. An Post has developed a new service to deliver newspapers each day in urban and rural areas. For older and at risk customers delivery of the newspaper is free. Over the next few weeks the below advertisement will feature in local newspapers across Dublin. I was delighted to support the first ever online edition of the Dublin Gazette last week. We need trusted local and national media more than ever before.
EU Trade Amidst Global Uncertainty – Putting Dublin first
At the beginning of March I hosted a timely seminar on ‘EU Trade Amidst Global Uncertainty’. EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan was our keynote speaker at the event. He addressed key issues such as Brexit, transatlantic relations, World Trade Organisation reform and of course the coronavirus. At the time it wasn’t quite so clear that COVID-19 would be the most critical challenge to the Irish and European economies since the global financial crisis.
It was great to have Aongus Hegarty of Dell Technologies and Caroline Keeling join our panel to share their perspectives on the future of EU Trade. Our discussion with key players in Irish business was incredibly insightful and it helped to shine a light on many of the trade issues facing Irish companies, particularly as we go into a crucial time for Brexit trade talks.
NGO Roundtable with MEP colleagues
In late February I had the opportunity to speak, debate and answer questions from all Irish NGO’s at an event organised by the Dóchas Ireland network. The discussion was focused on the future of development policy within the EU with specific focus on the funding available for NGO’s through the multiannual financial framework (MFF). As I sit on the Development Committee and Women’s Rights & Gender Equality Committee in the Parliament, this seminar was of particular interest to me. I addressed specific topics such as sexual health and reproductive rights for women and solutions to the current migration crisis. It was great to be joined by some of my EU colleagues.
International Women’s Day
On March 8th I celebrated International Women’s Day by participating in a panel discussion at McCann Fitzgerald’s Law firm alongside Denise Charlton and Dil Wickremasinghe who have been advocates of women’s rights for many years. We had a lively debate on the barriers and challengers facing women in the world today and I was able to discuss elements of the new EU Gender Equality Strategy with members of staff. I also participated in Dublin’s first ever Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk. I was delighted to address gathered participants (men & women) on the importance of having mentors in our lives.
EIB – Investing in Dublin
In January I held an information seminar on ‘Funding in the New Decade’ in conjunction with the European Parliament Liaison Office in Ireland. Vice President of the European Investment Bank, Andrew McDowell joined us for a lively discussion on funding opportunities for small and medium sized enterprises in Dublin. Our panellists: Laura Burke, Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency, Catherine Moroney, Head of Business Banking at AIB and Nick Ashmore, CEO of the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland addressed a packed house on how we can boost sustainable investment in Ireland. The European Investment Bank is now more important than ever before for Irish businesses given the COVID-19 crisis. Last week Eurogroup Finance Ministers agreed a pan-European guarantee fund of €25 billion, which could support €200 billion of financing for companies with a focus on SMEs.
And finally, it is a great privilege to represent the people of Dublin in the European Parliament. I want to thank you for your continued support, I am here to represent your interests and I am available to engage with you on any issue that is of interest to you.
We will get through this together. Our best days are yet to come.
Stay safe, stay healthy.