Ireland currently holds the position of the EU presidency, a rotating six-month position that it adopted on January 1, 2004. Outlining the priorities for its term, Bertie Ahem has singled out economic reform, justice issues and the improvement of the EU’s external relations — particularly with the US — as priorities. In addition, he has committed to trying to work out an agreement on Europe’s Constitutional Treaty, which remains to be ratified. Although it would be difficult to have the treaty approved within the six-month term, Ireland is not one of the countries that disagrees with the treaty and therefore may be able to steer it through to approval.
During the Irish EU presidency, on May 1, 2004, ten new members will join the European Union. To mark the occasion, Dublin plans to host a “Day of Welcomes” to which the leaders of all 25 EU states and those of Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey will be invited.
Some Irish people are hoping to push their own issues to the forefront during Ireland’s EU term. Galvanized by the presidency, a group called Conradh na Gaeilge is circulating a petition to Dáil Éireann, or the Irish Parliament, demanding that the Irish language be declared an official working language of the European Union. The web address to sign the petition is: http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?gaedhilg. According to the website, almost 80,000 people have signed the petition. The Irish language is recognised by European scholars as one of the oldest and must culturally important languages in the entire Indo-European family of languages and the only language north of the Alps with a written literature going back 1,500 years. Irish is the first official language of the Republic of Ireland, with English as the second official language, according to the Constitution of Ireland. ♦