International Relations · Second year

EU: Power, Policy and Integration: Simulation actor position (Ireland)

  • Details of the actor and their relationship with the EU

When playing the role of Ireland as a member state of the EU, it is important to highlight some basic facts about and give a general background of Ireland’s relationship with the EU. With a total area of 70 000 km², and a population of 4.5 million, Ireland was until quite recently one of the poorest countries in Western Europe. However, a particularly strong growth since the 1990s has made it the fourth richest nation in the world from the perspective of GDP per capital. Ireland was a largely agricultural society, and since its EU membership, the country has transformed into a “Celtic Tiger” with a modern and high-tech economy. Economic success gives a certain influence on EU policy regarding trade, but also education, environment and human rights. Also, we can highlight that small countries get, through the EU membership, a stronger voice at the regional and international level. Ireland joined with the first enlargement, in 1973, as well as Denmark and the United Kingdom. Nowadays Ireland is one of the most pro-European of EU member states, with 77% of the population approving of EU membership according to a Eurobarometer poll in 2006. This country was a founding member of the euro single currency, that is to say a member of the Eurozone in 1999. On top of that In May 2004, Ireland was one of only three countries to open its borders to workers from the 10 new member states. Nevertheless, the relationship with the EU is not perfect: Ireland is not a member of the Schengen area, it rejected the Treaty of Nice in 2001 (but ratified it following a second referendum), and it did not take any measures until 2004 to regulate the right to work for immigrants from new member states.

The voting weight of Ireland within the Council of European Union is 2%, or 7 votes. The currently applicable voting system of the Council has been defined in the Treaty of Nice since its entry into force in 2003. The voting weights of the member states according to this treaty have to respect the following conditions for decision-making: the majority of countries: 50% + one, if proposal made by the Commission, or else at least two-thirds (66.67%); the majority of voting weights (74%); and the majority of population (62%). The Constituency Commission made changes to the constituencies of Ireland so as to reduce the total number of MEPs from 12 to 11, due to the accession of Croatia to the EU.

As of 2013, Paschal Donohoe has been Minister of State for European Affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs. Ireland has held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on seven occasions (in 1975, 1979, 1984, 1990, 1996, 2004 and 2013).


Your interpretation of your Member State’s Position regarding EU foreign policy and the EU’s relationship with China more generally

  1. Detail an example of positions they have taken in previous negotiations.

The financial crisis has strongly affected international trade. But China has suffered less than other countries. Even with a 17% decrease of the total exports in 2009 compared to 2008, China’s growth has dethroned Germany, one of the most important countries regarding trade for several years. China thus had 10% of the world exports in 2009, against 3% then years earlier.

Ireland, as well as Greece and Spain, suffered a lot from the financial crisis of 2008. Thus, China had repeatedly bought some parts of the euro debt. For example, in 2010, Greece received €110 billion rescue, and Ireland received a €85 billion package from China (Irish Independent, 2011). But surprisingly, this help is not always very well perceived. Indeed, The Guardian’s article (2010) claims that China’s goal is to ‘take advantage of cash-strapped eurozone nations to gain a foothold’. This liberal idea illustrates well the position of the United Kingdom about China’s help. Nevertheless, it is obvious that Ireland, who is currently following a left wing policy with a Labour president Michael D Higgins, is hoping to develop more industrial co-operation deals, and more generally a better relationship with China.

It is now a main concern for the European Union to develop some foreign policies about this key global actor.


  1. Clearly state at least three policy proposals that you think the Council should ratify in relation to its negotiations with China.

We believe that the European Union should develop the bilateral relationship with China thanks to a more direct and human way than just economic. Trade is a very important concern, but we have some specific proposals, that would have a real impact on people’s lives.

First of all, the educational link between China and the EU needs to be improved. The difficulty of getting a visa is a real problem for student and academic staff mobility. The Erasmus Mundus program shows that, in 2008, 42 600 students moved from China to the EU to study, with 66% in the UK, 11% in France, 9% in Germany and 3% in Ireland. The increasing EU-China exchange in the field of education and employment is very important to discover the culture of the other part of the world. Also, the United States has recently simplified the visa applications for Chinese students. To deepen the EU-China cooperation, we need a collective approach from all EU member states to simplify the visa applications for travelling, studying as well as commercial purposes. Thus the EU should sign The Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications, so that Chinese students can gain valuable degrees and knowledge from EU universities. For example, in today’s globalized world people’s interests and concerns are becoming more and more similar. This leads us to our second proposal, which finds its origins in the integration of foreign culture.

Indeed, the rising affluence has, in many parts of the world, been followed by an increase in meat-eating. One explanation of this phenomenon was that Oriental countries are willing to adopt a Western way of living, and thus a more carnivore way of eating. The Earth Policy Institute shows that China’s meat consumption is nowadays about twice the American consumption (see table 1). It is important to analyse where all this meat comes from, and Ireland is one of the three countries China is importing from, the other being Canada and the United States (The Irish Independent, 2014). As Ireland is the only European country that is exporting meat to China, we are willing to show a perfect food safety system to the food delegations from China, and therefore we are asking for a guarantee from the EU. By supporting these exports, the EU would strengthen the bilateral trade, and could also impact positively on the Chinese agriculture, for example by promoting an environment-friendly animal husbandry.

Finally, the EU committed itself as protector of the human rights and the fundamental freedoms, and a Human Rights Dialogue takes place every 6 months. Some historical facts, such as the atrocities in Rwanda and Darfur, Bosnia and Kosovo, but also the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre in China, increased the necessity of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’. We believe that the EU should lift the arms embargo imposed on China 25 years ago, after Tiananmen. By giving up the embargo, the EU would have the power to ask for the recognition of the Tiananmen massacre, and thus could implement human rights policies (such as the death penalty, children’s and women’s rights, ethnic minorities’ rights, civil and political freedoms etc.). Moreover, this embargo, which has been supported by the United States and Japan to prevent a potential attack on Taiwan, is a major obstacle to the development of EU-China cooperation foreign policy and security policy.


To conclude, Ireland’s proposals aim first to develop the EU-China academic mobility through the simplification of visa application and the ratification of the Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications; secondly to impact on China’s animal husbandry through a guarantee on Irish meat exports; and finally to lift the arms embargo in order to have a stronger voice on human rights.




Table 1:

graph 2


The simulation made me realize that my proposals were too detailed. For instance, I would have changed the proposal on meat trade to a normal trade policy, using meat consumption as an example. Secondly, I understand now that lifting the arms embargo is impossible, because of the essence, or the very nature of the European Union. Thus, the third policy would be only about a stronger Human Rights Dialogue, without mentioning the embargo. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the EU could never negotiate anything serious and controversial like the human rights topic, without giving up an aspect of previous foreign affairs. Finally, the simulation raised my awareness around the need of an EU foreign policy unity and homogeneousness to have a significant impact on international relations.




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