So, what is a Bilateral?

8th October, 2013

I am writing this note on the train to Strasbourg. This follows an afternoon of meetings in Paris.

I travelled to Paris to meet Thierry Repentin, the French Minister for European Affairs.

Why, you may ask, do I travel to countries to meet Ministers in other governments given that I regularly meet them in Brussels and elsewhere?

The reason is that the other meetings that I attend (such as the General Affairs Council) have 27 other Governments present. These fora do not offer an opportunity to discuss issues that matter between two countries in a detailed and substantive manner.

The formal name for such a meeting is a bilateral.

An example of such a bilateral is the long and very detailed discussion with Minister Repentin – ably delivered as always by our excellent Embassy.

Issues that we discussed included:-

– An update on the Irish economy and on our plans and commitment to exit the External Aid Programme.

– A discussion on the status of banking union and how necessary it is to maintain the recent progress within the Eurozone.

– An exchange of views regarding the disaster of high levels of youth unemployment and on what countries and Europe can do to respond more effectively.

– A discussion on the Posted Workers Directive.

This was a very positive and productive meeting and I really got a sense of the French perspective on each of these issues. I hope my French colleagues felt the same about the Irish views too!

After this I met a number of figures from French civil society to discuss Ireland, our economy and society and the future of Europe.

I now write this as the evening train speeds to Strasbourg. My next blogpost will explain why.

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