Brian Hayes MEP

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Monthly Archives: June 2015

Roaming Charges to be abolished in June 2017 – Hayes

Dublin MEP, Brian Hayes has today (Tuesday) welcomed confirmation that roaming charges across the EU will be abolished by June 2017. The decision comes following agreement reached yesterday between the Commission, the Council and the Parliament.

“I welcome the announcement that roaming charges are to be abolished in June 2017.  This is good news for EU citizens. On average we in Ireland use our mobile phone than any other EU Member State.”

“From April 2016 a phrasing out of roaming charges will commence. This transitional period will mean that roaming charges will be four times lower than is the case today.”

“EU citizens have been faced with excessive mobile phone charges for too long. Today’s announcement is long overdue.”

“This decision is now required to be voted on in the European Parliament. Parliament has led the way on this issue. The ultimate abolition of roaming charges represents a good days work for the European Parliament” concluded Mr Hayes.

HSE should write to patients on waiting lists and advise they have right to procedures abroad – HAYES

Real need to cut red tape as 742 patients asked HSE about treatment abroad but only 62 went abroad in the last 12 months

New HSE Application form is cut from 30 pages to just 7

MEP for Dublin, Brian Hayes, has today (Monday) called on the HSE to inform those on waiting lists about their right to have treatment in another EU Member State. As part of the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive patients have the right to receive medical treatment in another EU Member State and the right to have some or all of the costs re-paid.

“This European law allows a patient to avail of procedures in a public or private facility in another EU country. The trouble is that patients on waiting lists do not know about it. You can recoup the costs of the treatment, up to what it costs in the public system in Ireland.”

“We cannot expect the patient waiting for procedures to simply discover this for themselves. Those on waiting lists are inundated with communications advising them about their place on a waiting list. I’m asking that a simple paragraph be included to advise of this EU scheme. I’m not asking for an expensive advertising campaign or another leaflet – just a simple paragraph in the letter sent to patients concerning waiting lists. I haven contacted the HSE to suggest this and I understand they are considering my proposal.”

“People are interested in this scheme as 742 people have enquired about it but only 62 were approved. The HSE has made strides to reduce the paperwork involved and this month reduced the 30 page application to 7 pages. This 3,000 word document is still complicated, but I welcome the improved application form. The HSE needs to do more to make it easier for Irish citizens to apply for this important new EU right,” concluded Mr Hayes.

The euro is our currency – we must do whatever it takes to protect it

Article published in the Irish Independent 29th June 2015

Michael Noonan is completely right when he said on Saturday that we are heading into uncharted waters on Greece. It’s a fast-moving situation. Quite frankly, anything can happen between now and tomorrow night, when Greece reaches its IMF deadline and exits its existing bailout.

Is this a moment in history like the summer of 1914, when Europe sleepwalked itself into a war that no one thought possible? When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and communism collapsed in Russia and Eastern Europe, the then leaders of Western Europe responded to the challenge of events. Is this a similar moment when European leadership comes to the fore? What’s needed now, in responding to the Greek crisis, is high-quality European leadership and judgment. Everything must be done to avert this crisis.

The present Greek crisis has now entered a very dangerous phase. After months of negotiations, there is a rancorous mood among European leaders. You cannot make concessions or reach out to the other side if negotiations have been conducted in an atmosphere of bad faith.

The Greek government’s aggressive and provocative negotiation tactics have alienated every other eurozone country, more sympathetic centre-left politicians included. In a reckless late move, the Greek government appears to be threatening national suicide in a bid to get a better deal.

What Syriza seems unable to grasp is that other countries have mandates too. With a mandate comes responsibility to make an agreement, but that requires respecting the mandate of others. The eurozone is not split on this issue. It’s not a question of 10 countries arguing one course of action, while the other nine take an opposite view. The overwhelming view is to continue to provide EU financial support to Greece, with conditions. And the issue of debt relief can be a part of that package when it’s obvious that conditions are being met.

But there remains some pretty hard facts that people need to know. Over €65bn of unpaid taxes remain outstanding in Greece. There are four people working for every three pensioners – no one believes that is sustainable. Major structural change is needed and the frustration is that progress was being made, as evidenced by a primary surplus and the ability of Greece to borrow again on the international money markets. All that progress is now being lost by a type of ‘student prince’ politics – where ideology is more important than running a country.

With one minute to midnight, the question must be asked: why has the Greek government left it so long? Five months have been wasted – did it ever want to do a deal? The Greek economy has slipped further, unemployment has increased and the banks have been subjected to a continuous run. Yet in January, the EU Commission predicted that Greece would grow by 2.5pc.

Syriza has spent the last five months lecturing us all but seems unable to get to grips with the responsibility of government. Is it the case that revolutionary political forces in Greece are willing to risk a total collapse of the Greek economy in the belief that a Greek collapse will trigger a more widespread collapse in Europe?

A Greek default will be a tragedy for Greece. It will cause terrible suffering and possible political instability and has the potential to cause economic contagion in the wider financial system. A Greek default is entering the realm of the dangerous unknown where the financial system could be thrown into chaos, as happened in 2008.

Europe has invested too much over the past seven years to be thrown into chaos again. The euro is our currency and all eurozone member states have a responsibility to do whatever it takes to protect it.

The lesson we all need to take from this is that economic instability follows political instability. An economy will not grow when politicians play high-wire tactics with their country’s future. Enda Kenny has been criticised recently for taking a hard line on Greece. Yet he has shown that by working with the EU institutions and negotiating in good faith, things can improve. Which country, Ireland or Greece, is in a better place now?

Britain and Europe: The Endgame. An Irish Perspective review: What would happen to Ireland after a Brexit?

Book Review: Published in The Irish Times, Saturday 27th June 2015

This book is more likely to be covered in highlighter pen than sunscreen, and on desks rather than sunloungers. But, like the most popular summer books, it’s all about relationships.

The past, present and future of the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union are told through an Irish prism. This is also a political thriller, with the authors exploring the political motives of all sides. Published by the Institute of International and European Affairs, this is the third instalment of a gripping tale.

For most people the institute came to prominence lately when Jean-Claude Trichet, the former president of the European Central Bank, attended one of its events and answered questions from the Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis. The think tank has published books on international and European affairs for nearly 25 years, and with this it has delivered another high-quality study.

This is the third in Paul Gillespie’s series of studies into the relationship, and this time he is editing with Dáithí O’Ceallaigh, a former Irish ambassador in London and current chair of the Press Council.

Gillespie (a former foreign-policy editor of The Irish Times) and O’Ceallaigh have divided the 18 chapters into five sections detailing the issues, the options for change, the implications for Ireland, the implications for Britain and Europe, and, finally, a road map for future negotiations.

We are treated to a history of the UK’s relationship with the EU. One of the contributors, Tony Brown, believes Britain could have tried harder to empathise with its European partners. We’re told that debate in Britain is often dominated by Eurosceptic voices. What is described as the “right-wing press” supports the British strain of exceptionalism while articulating separation between the UK and EU. This has lead to a lack of an emotional connection between UK voters and the EU.

O’Ceallaigh points to how the debate has undergone a fundamental change since the economic crisis, the rise of Ukip, the dominance of immigration as an election issue and the election of Conservative governments.

A fascinating chapter explores nationalism within Britain and asserts that continental governments believe it may be impossible to match the needs of a resurgent English identity with the EU’s four freedoms of movement, involving goods, services, capital and labour.

The the UK’s internal-sovereignty questions are teased out in a way that is often ignored. A UK exit from the EU could have serious consequences for Northern Ireland, particularly if an independent Scotland is pursued.

The impact on the North is a major theme, and Dr John Bradley explores it in a dedicated chapter. He argues that policymakers in Stormont need to imaginatively respond to the UK-EU relationship and that policymakers in the South need to look at the consequences for Northern Ireland seriously.

Diagrams, charts and bullet points make the geopolitical concepts accessible througout the book. Helpfully, the authors have combed the speeches and writings of David Cameron, the British prime minister, to distil his negotiation points. Each is tested to see if it can be met in the dynamics of European politics.

We then come to the heart of the book. The founder and chairman of the Institute of International and European Affairs, Brendan Halligan, sets out the four options for Britain: fully in, half in, half out and fully out. These follow the style of the previous books in the series, setting out descriptive and catchily named possible scenarios.

Fully in – a “more hypothetical than real” option – involves the UK joining the euro and the Schengen Area and signing up to the Fiscal Compact.

Half in involves the UK not joining the euro but taking a positive role in policy at the top table. This is likened to the position held by Sweden and Denmark and advocated, we’re told, by the Liberal Democrats and most of the Labour Party.

Half out is the UK stepping back from European integration and putting distance between itself and the euro zone while copper-fastening the integrity of the single market. The UK’s existing opt-out from the justice and home-affairs legislation is given as an example of how this might work. We are told that this option appeals to the majority of the Conservative Party.

Fully out would see the UK withdraw from the EU and seek a bilateral free-trade agreement.

The implications for Ireland jump off the pages of the following chapters, and the book turns into a page-turner as the knock-on effects become apparent. Whether Ireland takes a reactive, proactive or interpretative stance is explored. Tom Arnold, the former chief executive of Concern Worldwide (and current chairman of the Irish Times Trust), is stark in his chapter’s conclusions. Ireland, he says, must walk a tightrope between remaining a committed and core member of the EU while maintaining strong relations with the UK.

The most fascinating chapter comes from Prof Edgar Morgenroth of the Economic and Social Research Institute, who describes the economic consequences for Ireland if the UK exits the EU, focusing on trade, energy and foreign direct investment. This offers a mixed bag. The harm to trade could be balanced by the relocation to Ireland of foreign direct investment, but the damage to the energy market tips the scale. A Brexit is bad for the Irish economy. The harm applies to Britain, too, and not just economically. Prestige and influence are cited as its biggest potential losses.

Diverse voices

The editors have drawn together 10 authors, from very different fields, while having a consistent narrative. It truly is a diverse set of authors: Blair Horan, the former general secretary of the Civil and Public Services Union, writes an excellent chapter on the trade-union perspective in the UK and Ireland; John McGrane of the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce offers an insightful business perspective.

This is a must-read book if you’re interested in Irish, UK or European politics. But the appeal of this edition of Gillespie’s trilogy goes way beyond that. Anyone with an interest in Northern Ireland, business and trade, agriculture, travel and tourism, trade unionism, nationalism and economics will find this a gripping read.

A host of unknowns lies ahead, but one thing is for certain: this is a relationship that will deliver more drama than Mills and Boon.

New €315 billion EU investment plan will channel funds directly to SMEs – Hayes

Key election commitment covered within 12 months

Today (Wednesday) the European Parliament gave final approval for the EU’s €315 billion Investment Plan (European Fund for Strategic Investment). This was a commitment made by Fine Gael and the EPP during the European election campaign last year. Brian Hayes MEP welcomed the approval saying that it will provide much-needed stimulus for Irish SMEs.

“The EU’s new Investment Plan for Europe is specifically geared towards SMEs that focus on R&D, innovation, education and infrastructure. Ireland is fast becoming a global hub for technology and innovation, particularly for SMEs. This plan will give small Irish businesses the kickstart that is needed to strengthen the economy and deliver more jobs.

“The new fund will be operational at by September and I am confident that it will mobilise over €315 billion over the next three years.

“The Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has recognised that SMEs form the backbone of the European economy and has made it a priority to channel funds to these businesses.

“Ireland has the opportunity to take advantage of this new plan. The government is involved in a joint task force with the Commission, the EIB and other Member States which aims to identify strategic investments that can be undertaken. Ireland must exert its influence on this plan and the government needs to bring to the table sustainable and workable projects across the country which can translate into jobs and growth for the economy.

“A first tranche of funding through this project has already been earmarked for the Public Private Partnership project for Primary Care Centres in Ireland. This project will deliver 14 new Primary Care Centres and will provide a welcome jobs boost to various parts of the country.”

Hayes to seek meeting with EU Commission on low take up in Ireland of EU Cross Border Health Directive

Only 62 patients benefit from EU Health Directive in last 12 months

MEP for Dublin, Brian Hayes, has today (Monday) asked for an urgent meeting with the EU Commission to discuss the poor take up of the EU Cross Border Health Directive in Ireland.

Mr Hayes made the comments as figures show that over the last 12 months only 62 patients availed of the Directive in Ireland. Under the Directive patients have the right to receive medical treatment in another EU Member State. Much more needs to be done by the HSE to roll out this important EU health right.

“This European law allows a patient to avail of healthcare in a public or private facility in another EU country. You can recoup the costs of the treatment from the HSE. This has the potential to reduce waiting times for basic procedures.”

“Clearly not enough patients or doctors know about the Directive. This Directive was transposed into Irish law over 12 months ago.”

“I have seen an evaluation study of the Directive by KPMG submitted to the European Commission in March. This study paints a poor picture as to the take up and promotion of the Directive across the EU. The European Commission report pulls no punches saying that EU citizens are ‘not aware of the existence of National Contact Points.’ As evidence of this the evaluation study highlights thesmall number of information requests received by National Contact Points and the small number of reimbursement requests’.

“In Ireland the HSE run the National Contact Point. They have a website and phone number. This approach is too passive. That’s why I’m calling on the HSE to notify all those on waiting list of their rights directly.”

“I understand that since June 2014 only 62 applications were successful under this scheme. I am now asking the European Commission to give me the same information on every other Member State so we can compare the take up rate in Ireland.”

“Travelling to another country with a substantial outlay of costs may not be an option for all patients. But for others it could mean a life changing procedure. That’s why the HSE needs to explain to the public the potential behind the EU cross border health Directive.” concluded Mr. Hayes.

Over €80,000 in refunds for Irish EU consumers – Hayes

Fine Gael Dublin MEP, Brian Hayes has highlighted to Irish citizens travelling abroad this summer to be aware of their consumer rights and the support structures that are in place when purchasing goods in another EU country.

“70% of Irish people who go on summer holidays remain within the EU. Those on holidays often purchase clothing and electronics or avail of services such as hotels and restaurants. However, not many people are aware of the services that the EU has in place to protect them against faulty products or poor services.”

“Every EU Member State has a European Consumer Centre (ECC) whose job it is to resolve complaints between consumers and traders in different EU countries. When necessary the ECC can liaise directly with a trader via its sister centre in the country of purchase.”

“For example – You are on holidays in Spain and purchase a camera which stops working when you return to Ireland. You have emailed the shop but have failed to receive an adequate response or have language difficulties. You can contact the ECC who will advise you or make representations on your behalf via the Spanish ECC. The same entitlement applies if you purchase the product online.”

“In its last Annual Report the ECC in Ireland has supported 3,279 consumers and obtained refunds of over €80,000. The biggest areas of complaints were air travel, car rental, electronic goods and clothing. When faulty items are purchased in Ireland you simply return it to the shop but this is not possible when the seller is in another country. The ECC provides a valuable service and I would encourage consumers to avail of their services if they find themselves in the position of purchasing faulty products.”

The Irish European Consumer Centre is based in Dublin and can be contacted on 01-8797620 or via their website www.eccireland.ie ” concluded Mr Hayes