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Damien O'Reilly, EU Affairs & Communication Manager

This time next year we will have voted in the 2024 European Elections. From June 6th to June 9th, tens of millions of EU citizens will exercise their democratic right at the ballot box to elect over 700 new MEPs including one extra for Ireland bringing our representation to 14.

And in the run up to next year, no doubt there will be the usual lazy media commentary questioning what MEPs do, and the size of their salaries. If you have been following the contentious debate around the EU Commissions Nature Restoration Law, you will know exactly the significance of the role of MEPs in shaping important legislation. In simple terms, the EU Commission propose laws and regulations and MEPs make amendments before the final trialogue sign off involving heads of government.

From a farming perspective you could say that every chore done on the farm from dawn until dusk is wrapped in some form EU legislation with MEPs fingerprints. So do not underestimate the value of your vote in next years elections particularly if you are involved in the agrifood sector, for there are reams of important legislation coming down the tracks intertwining food production with environmental protection. The MEPs we elect across Europe will be at the heart of that critical decision-making running towards 2030. The pollical make up of that parliament too will sway thinking which will affect positively or negatively against landowners.

The Irish turnout for the last European election in 2019 was just below 50% indicating a disinterest among the public in these elections. However, a survey just published by Eurobarometer asking citizens about their awareness of the elections and the EU in general makes interesting reading. Of the Irish citizens surveyed, 64% said they have a totally positive image of the European Parliament compared to just 37% across all of the EU. Interestingly when asked how interested they were in next years election, 56% of Irish respondents said they were interested compared to 66% across the EU.

Fine Gaels Sean Kelly is Irelands longest serving MEP and the only incumbent with more than two terms. He intends to run again next year. To get into positions of influence on committees in the European Parliament, experience is paramount. There is little point in complaining about EU legislation and its impact on our daily lives if we are not thinking about who we send to represent us. Aside from the parliament, Ireland is losing its influence in the institutions also. That is a huge concern. Michael Scannell’s recent retirement as deputy director general in DG Agri is a reminder of that dearth of senior Irish talent within the Commission. The average age of the Irish dotted across the EU Commission is also among the oldest of the member states.

So, while it might be far down our list of priorities, the value of your vote in the European election next June should not be underestimated particularly if you are a farmer.

By Damien O’Reilly

Letter from Brussels published in the Irish Farmers Monthly