I am happy to assure the Deputy that Irish fishery interests were given full consideration before the conclusion of fishing agreements between the EC and Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
In relation to a potential fisheries agreement between the EC and the Russian Federation, the European Commission presented its proposal for a new negotiating mandate at the March Fisheries Council of Ministers meeting. The Deputy is correct is supposing that if the Commission's proposal for a new mandate was adopted in its present format by the Council any agreement which might ensue could allow Russian vessels access to the Irish zone of the north-east Atlantic. However, I would emphasise that this is merely the beginning of the discussions on this matter and I can confirm that our difficulties, on control, conservation, fleet management and balance grounds, with the possibility of Russian vessels fishing in our zone, have been voiced at the Community's external fisheries working group in the period since March.
The Commission's proposal for a new negotiating mandate is due to be considered in detail for the first time by the Fisheries Council of Ministers at its meeting today in Luxembourg. I wish to assure the House that the interests of the Irish fishing industry in this matter, not only in relation to access to waters, but also as regards stock allocations and market access will be articulated at the Council.
I should add that Ireland, both directly and as a member of the Community, is anxious to do everything possible to develop good relations with the Russian Federation and to facilitate its economic development, including the development of its fishing industry. It would, however, be unreasonable to expect that, if this should be proposed, we could support Community development proposals for the Russian fishing industry which would operate to the disadvantage of the Irish fishing industry. Any development of fishing activity to which Ireland would be party would have to address our disadvantaged position in our own waters. I am not satisfied that the mandate the Commission is seeking is consistent with that basic position.