Executive Director’s Blog – Ireland and the EU – A Timeline

Noelle O ConnellWhen we think of Ireland’s relationship with the EU, it can be hard to look past the last number of years.  However, our European relationship extends back much further.

In 1961, Ireland and the UK first made enquiries into joining the then European Economic Community (EEC), with our first application submitted on 31 July.  This was rejected just a few weeks later.   At this time, the then French President Charles de Gaulle was particularly opposed to any possible British membership of the EEC and it was made clear that any Irish application would be reliant on a British application.

A second Irish application to join the EEC in 1967 was blocked, again by President de Gaulle.

In 1969 the new French President, George Pompidou, promised not to stand in the way of British and Irish membership.  Fresh negotiations began and in 1972 the Treaty of Accession was signed.   A referendum held in May 1972 confirmed Ireland’s entry into the European community with 83% of voters supporting membership.

On 1 January 1973 the EEC membership grew from six to nine when Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom formally joined the EEC.

In June 1979, EU citizens directly elected the members of the European Parliament for the first time. Previously they were delegated by national parliaments.

On 1 January 1999, the Euro currency was introduced in 11 countries, later joined by Greece in 2001, for commercial and financial transactions only.  On 1 January 2002, Euro notes and coins arrived and Irish punts were phased out by 09 February 2002.

The Nice Treaty aimed to reform the institutional structure of the different EU institutions as it expanded eastwards.   In 2001, the Irish people rejected the first draft of that Treaty by a margin of 53.87% to 46.13% with turnout of 34.79%. A second referendum on the Nice Treaty was held in 2002 and the revised version of the Treaty was passed by 62.89% to 37.11%, on a turnout of 49.47%.

In 2004 under the Irish presidency of the EU, the largest single EU enlargement took place when eight Central and Eastern European countries plus two Mediterranean states, Malta and Cyprus joined on 1 May.

On 29 October 2004, the 25 EU Member States signed a Treaty establishing a European Constitution, designed to streamline democratic decision-making and management in a growing European Union.   It also created the post of a European Foreign Minister.  When citizens in both France and the Netherlands voted ‘No’ to the Constitution in referendums in 2005, EU leaders declared a “period of reflection”.   A number of reviews were held in EU Member State countries.  However, it was decided to abandon work on a Constitution for the EU with many of the pertinent issues being entered into the Lisbon Treaty.

In 2008 the Irish people voted on the first Lisbon Treaty, defeating it by 53.4% to 46.6% with a turnout of 53.13%.  A second referendum on an altered Lisbon Treaty was held in 2009 with 59% of Irish voters turning out, with a result of 67.13% to 32.87% in favour.

Ireland’s most recent EU referendum took place in 2012.  The Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union) Act 2012 was approved by 60.3% to 39.7%, on a turnout of 50%.

In 2013, Ireland marked the 40th anniversary of our accession to the EU.  In addition, Ireland held the rotating EU Presidency for the 7th time and 2013 was also designated European Year of Citizens.

2015 is the European Year for Development and ‘Dóchas’ the development network is leading activities here in Ireland.

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