European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has described Ireland’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as “exemplary”.
Ms von der Leyen was visiting Dublin on Friday to meet Taoiseach Micheál Martin and discuss the EU’s recovery package and Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan.
She said: “I have looked at the numbers and development over the last six months before coming here and Ireland is exemplary in the way it has approached this pandemic with all the difficulties we faced and overcome together.
“An excellent performance in the delivery of vaccines is concerned and the response of this country, so I can only commend you.
“We have always said in Europe that we have common rules, for example travel, but they have to be flexible insofar that they have to look at the specific epidemiological situation of a region.
“Therefore I welcome that Ireland has joined our Covid certificate. I just today had the opportunity to test, it works today, and it is fine.
“But all of our members states have always the possibility and responsibility to look at the individual regional epidemiological situation and then to adapt the approvals to that situation.”
🇮🇪 Green light for Ireland's recovery and resilience plan!
It is a well-balanced mix of investments and reforms to power the green and digital transition.
As you say in Ireland, a good start is half the work!
And you’re off to a very good start.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) July 16, 2021
Ms von der Leyen also said that the Northern Ireland Protocol is the solution to issues caused by Brexit.
Speaking following a meeting with Mr Martin, she said: “The Protocol is the only solution we have found with the UK after discussing that over the years.
“It is the only solution to protect peace and stability on the island of Ireland and to protect the integrity of the single market.
“We are convinced that to achieve these objectives this needs to be implemented. We have shown, as the European Commission, huge flexibility and created flexibility and pragmatism over the last year and also over the last weeks.
“Indeed, flexibility and pragmatism has ben shown on our side. I cannot imagine that our British friends will not show the same flexibility and pragmatism because we all share the same purpose that we want to have peace and stability on the island of Ireland.
“The protocol is important, the Good Friday Agreement is paramount and therefore I cannot imagine our British friends will not show the same flexibility that we have shown.”
'There's a way'
Mr Martin said: “Our clear sense is first of all that flexibility has been by the Commission, generosity has been shown by the Commission.
“Maros Sefcovic, in his discussions with the UK side, has demonstrated and said very clearly that the Commission wants to be flexible. So where there’s a will, there’s a way.
“In our view, the mechanisms are there to resolve any outstanding issues, and we believe the mechanism should be used to the full by the UK Government and the indeed the EU.
“We believe the generosity shown by the EU should be reciprocated.”