JFour years ago, people across the island of Ireland gathered in large numbers to vote in favor of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. Their vote was a clear vote against conflict and violence, to ensure that all children on the island of Ireland can grow up in peace. It was a truly remarkable and defining moment.
The agreement was explicitly built on the principles of partnership, equality and mutual respect. His defining legacy was to engage everyone in continued dialogue to resolve differences.
The EU has played a key role in the peace process. The architects of the agreement were fully aware that the EU itself was a peace project, based on international cooperation and mutual understanding. For the Irish, EU membership and the single market have opened up a shared space where there was once division. Over the past three decades, the EU has invested more than €1.5 billion in programs for peace and cross-border cooperation.
When the UK took the decision to leave the EU, it was clear that both sides, the EU and the UK, would have to find a common solution to protect the Good Friday Agreement and preserve the precious peace. for everyone.
This solution, reached after long and hard negotiations, is the protocol of Northern Ireland.
This is the solution the British government agreed to two years ago.
It expressly recognizes the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the principle of consent as set out in the Good Friday Agreement.
Fundamentally, we also wanted to give Northern Ireland continued access to the EU single market of over 450 million consumers.
The conclusion of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol paved the way for the finalization of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and the UK.
People and businesses in Northern Ireland benefit every day. Figures show Northern Ireland’s economy is recovering faster from the pandemic than most other parts of the UK. Interest in investing in Northern Ireland is at an all time high, with companies winning contracts because of their access to the single market. We look forward to seeing Northern Ireland businesses in key sectors, such as manufacturing, dairy and the food industry, grow further through these opportunities.
Throughout the negotiations, the EU listened carefully to the views of the citizens and businesses most affected, including those of the Unionist community.
And we didn’t just listen. Having heard the real concerns of the people of Northern Ireland, the EU has tabled proposals to simplify the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland, changed its own laws to address concerns about the medicines supply and is committed to giving stakeholders in Northern Ireland a greater say in how the protocol works.
This package struck a fair and reasonable balance between two key imperatives: to fully respect the letter and the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, thus protecting the gains of the peace process; and to maintain the high standards, including in public and food safety, that EU citizens expect from the single market.
Unfortunately, the UK government chose not to engage in good faith with these proposals. Instead of the path of partnership and dialogue, he chose unilateralism.
There is no legal or political justification for unilaterally breaking an international agreement reached only two years ago. Introducing a bill will not solve the protocol problems. Instead, it will create a new set of uncertainties and make it more difficult to find lasting solutions.
We know and understand that the people of Northern Ireland want certainty, stability and predictability for their future and that of their children. We saw it during the recent legislative elections, where 52 of the 90 elected deputies support the protocol.
This is why the EU supports the protocol and why its proposals remain on the table. We are open to flexibility and creativity as we believe protocol can benefit everyone in Northern Ireland.
In these difficult times, with Russia waging a ruthless war in Ukraine, breaking with our European peace order, the EU and the UK must come together as partners sharing common values and commit to maintaining and strengthen the rules-based international order.
We urge the UK government to back off from its one-sided approach and show the same pragmatism and willingness to compromise that the EU has shown.
By working together – in partnership and with mutual respect – common ground can be found and challenges, however difficult, overcome.
Annalena Baerbock is German Foreign Minister. Simon Coveney TD is the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defense
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