The new leaders of the European Union have an opportunity to focus on how economic growth should affect societies, President Michael D Higgins has said.
In an address on ethics and economics, Mr Higgins urged them to be mindful that “firefighting” financial problems in member states does not become a social race to the bottom.
“The European Union will shortly see a new Commission, a new parliament, a new president of the European Council and a new High Representative take up their functions,” the President said.
“It is to be hoped that this change of governance will be an opportunity, not just to stimulate economic growth, but also to ground more firmly the strategy for growth in an ethical reflection on the social goods which we want this growth to deliver.”
Mr Higgins made his remarks at a debate on ethics and the economy at the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin
The President said all EU citizens should be concerned by the divisions which developed in the aftermath of the economic crisis of the last six years.
“European integration is now on a fragile path, torn between the requirements of fiscal adjustment and increasing social discontent,” he said.
“We must all be concerned by the widening gap... between deeper financial, regulatory and economic integration on the one hand, and the social solidarity required to give these policies popular legitimacy on the other.”
President Higgins said it should be remembered why the European Union came about. He told the debate the project constituted a promise that sprang from a desire for an alternative to conflicts.
President Higgins said the European Community was a pragmatic attempt at co-operation and an invitation to people in Europe “to construct a tapestry of varying colours, textures and images that would make the Europe of the 21st century a union of peace, prosperity and solidarity”.