Written Answers. - EU Presidency.
56 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the proposed priorities and objectives of the Government during Ireland's forthcoming Presidency of the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8672/96]
The main obligation on any Presidency is to ensure an efficient, effective and impartial approach to the discharge of the business of the European Union and this is a primary objective for our Presidency planning. Those issues which will be priorities for the European Union and for Ireland during our Presidency are set out in the White Paper on Foreign Policy. They are likely to include:
—the Intergovernmental Conference to review aspects of the EU Treaties,
—preparations for the Third Stage of European Monetary Union,
—growth, competitiveness, employment and social inclusion,
—agreement on the draft Union budget for 1997,
—Third Pillar issues such as drugs, immigration, extradition and organised crime,
—implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy,
—furthering developing relations between the EU and the applicant countries in preparation for future enlargement of the Union, and
—the continuing development of relations with other countries and regions outside the Union.
The Intergovernmental Conference will be a major priority for the Irish Presidency and we will seek to advance its work as expeditiously and constructively as possible.
Ensuring that preparations for the move to the Third Stage of Economic and Monetary Union proceed as efficiently as possible will be another priority for our Presidency. Attention to the technical work required for the introduction of the Euro will be necessary. The Irish Presidency will focus also on issues such as the relationship between participants and non-participants in the Third Stage.
The principal economic challenge for the Union and its member states is to address the unacceptable level of unemployment in the EU. We will work during our Presidency to ensure that employment remains high on the Union's agenda. The Dublin European Council in December 1996 will review the effectiveness of the programmes of action, co-ordinated at Union level and designed to make significant inroads into structural unemployment, as well as looking at the effectiveness of member states policies in this area. A feature of our European Council will be the presentation of the Second Annual Report on Employment. The question of competitiveness will be actively pursued in the Council with a view to the presentation of a report to the Dublin European Council.
An important feature of the work of the Irish Presidency will be the finalisation, on the basis of the Commission's draft budget and with the full collaboration of the other arm of the Budgetary authority, the European Parliament, of the Union budget for 1997.
The Union's policies must be designed to respond — and be perceived to respond — to real public concerns. Among the issues which most concern the citizens of the Union are those within the Justice and Home Affairs area, for example the prevention of terrorism, of drug smuggling and of international organised crime. Ireland looks forward during its Presidency to assisting in the development of a Union programme for action on drugs, as mandated by the Madrid European Council. We will seek to advance also the work of the Union in the areas of judicial co-operation, immigration and asylum, external borders, racism and xenophobia, and organised crime. Ireland will be looking also to streamline the decision making process in the Justice and Home Affairs area. It is hoped that the Intergovernmental Conference will assist in this process.
The Irish Presidency, in common with every other Presidency, will seek to manage the Union's extensive external relations agenda efficiently and effectively.
Issues arising from developments in former Yugoslavia and in the Middle East are likely to remain priorities during our Presidency.
The Union's relations with its eastern neighbours will continue to influence the development of the Union over the next few years. The enlargement of the Union to include Cyprus, Malta and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe will bring new challenges to bear on the Union, its member states and the applicant countries. Ireland's Presidency will seek to advance preparations for the enlargement of the Union.
Other matters which will be important items on Ireland's Presidency agenda include continuing the implementation of the EU-US Action Plan, developing the Union's relations with Canada, strengthening its relations with Russia and with the independent states of the former Soviet Union and followup to the Barcelona Conference on enhanced EU-Mediterranean relations.
The production of a programme for the Presidency is well in hand and will be finalised in the light of the work done under the current Italian Presidency. This programme will include a detailed itemisation of the work which Ireland will seek to advance during its Presidency term involving the full range of Council formations. The Presidency is obliged to place its Programme before the institutions of the Union early in July and it will be circulated to Deputies at that time. In addition, and in advance of the finalisation of the Presidency Programme, the Taoiseach has indicated that the Dáil will have the opportunity to debate the Presidency in June.