By Paul Ainsworth
IRELAND'S stewardship of the European Union presidency will focus on economic issues, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has stated.
The Republic will take over the rotating EU presidency this week for six months and it is hoped that during that period a deal can also be struck on the
sensitive issue of bank debt for the whole eurozone.
Mr. Gilmore spoke of the job facing the country in 2013 at a recent press conference in Brussels where he was joined by representatives from Cyprus, whose presidency ended on December 31.
Mr. Gilmore told reporters from across the continent: "I would start by saying that the Irish presidency will be one of realism but also of optimism. For us the glass is half-full and not half-empty. Responding effectively to the financial and economic crisis remains a central concern for the European Union.
"The attention must now focus on the challenge of getting the European economy back on track by improving the EU's global competitiveness, promoting economic growth and creating jobs."
More than 180 EU meetings will take place in Ireland during Dublin's six month presidency, costing an estimated €60 million. This is a significant reduction in costs since Ireland last held the presidency position in 2004, when the country's economy was in rude health compared to Ireland post-2008.
Costs have been reduced by using state-owned venues rather than private ones for meetings, while EU dignitaries arriving in Ireland for meetings will find no limousines or private helicopters to ferry them to and from venues. most will be advised to take the bus, while private cars will be reserved for only the most high-level EU representatives.
More information on Ireland's EU presidency can be found on a new Irish government website, www.eu2013.ie.