I propose to take Questions Nos. 28, 30 and 46 together. The timetable for movement to the third stage of Economic and Monetary Union, EMU, is laid down in the Treaty on European Union. The Treaty provides that the decision will be made by the European Council before 31 December 1996 after it has consulted the European Parliament. The European Council will be acting on the findings of the Council of Economic and Finance Ministers, ECOFIN, which itself will be acting on a recommendation from the European Commission. The Treaty requires the ECOFIN Council to assess for each member state whether it fulfils the Treaty conditions for the adoption of a single currency and whether a majority of member states meet these conditions. For this purpose, the Council will have before it reports from the Commission and the European Monetary Institute on the progress made in the fulfilment by the member states of their obligations regarding the achievement of Economic and Monetary Union. If a majority of member states meet the conditions, the third stage can begin in 1997; if a date for the start of the third stage has not been set by end 1997, the third stage will begin in 1999. It is now generally accepted that January 1999, rather than 1997, is the realistic date for commencement of stage three of Economic and Monetary Union. This has been confirmed by ECOFIN and the European Council in September 1995. Preparations at European Union and national level are geared to ensuring that the third stage proceeds on 1 January 1999. As I have indicated in response to previous questions, Ireland currently meets the convergence criteria set out in the Treaty and the Government is committed to ensuring that we continue to fulfil the necessary conditions so that we will be ready to take part in the third stage of Economic and Monetary Union in January 1999.
Deputy Power referred to recent movements in the exchange rate of the French franc. Such movements in exchange rate markets are not unusual and reflect market reactions to economic and political events. Their importance should not be exaggerated.
Deputy Lynch referred to recent comments attributed to Chancellor Kohl. I note that the media reports refer to comments which Chancellor Kohl is said to have made privately, and not to any public statements of German Government policy. Germany has consistently supported the strict implementation of the Treaty provisions on Economic and Monetary Union, including the timetable laid down in the Treaty.