Ceisteanna—Questions. - Meetings with EU Leaders.

Proinsias De Rossa

Question:

1 Proinsias De Rossa asked the Taoiseach the plans, if any, for meetings with other heads of EU governments in advance of the special European Council on economic and monetary union in Brussels on 2 and 3 May 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8144/98]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

2 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he will have bilateral meetings with other EU heads of government prior to the EU Council meeting on economic and monetary union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9419/98]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together. I will meet the Prime Minister of Finland on 26 and 27 April next in Helsinki. I have no plans to meet other EU heads of government in the period before the May summit.

Is the Taoiseach in a position to tell the House whether agreement has been reached on the governing council of the new European Central Bank and whether it is intended to lobby for an Irish member of the governing council?

If there is an opportunity to lobby for a person from this country we will do so. The matter has not been resolved. The Deputy will be aware from newspaper reports that the contest for the post of president of the ECB is between Mr. Wim Duisenberg and Mr. Jean-Claude Trichet but there is not agreement. The summit is approaching and I hope that will focus minds and resolve the matter.

It is envisaged that the heads of government will make the decision in May and that the European Parliament will endorse the package. Can the Taoiseach inform us if there is agreement on five of the six members of the governing council? There is a suggestion that there is a possibility of a sixth position which might be held vacant for a British member should Britain join. Is it the Taoiseach's intention to seek an Irish member of the governing council? What is the Government's attitude to the filling of the post of president of the ECB?

I hope the discussions on this matter will be completed over the next few days. Since Christmas this matter has turned into a turf war between certain member states. It would be better if this matter were resolved because it would be highly undesirable to attempt to make decisions on formalising arrangements without this decision having been made. I do not want to go into the matter of candidates. If the arrangements are made on the overall position everything else will fall into place and I think those matters have been resolved at ECOFIN level.

Is an Irish candidate being put forward for one of the posts on the governing council? Is there a consensus among all but one of the member states on a single candidate for the head of the ECB? Is it possible a third candidate may be put forward in the next ten days?

That is a possibility. When President Santer was elected to the presidency of the Commission a number of nominations were made in the last few days. That is a real possibility in this case. The ECOFIN met on Tuesday and I am not aware of what decisions may have been made on other nominations. The Minister for Finance may be able to provide that information.

Is the Taoiseach aware that there is a feeling in the Netherlands that any nomination they make for important international appointments is likely to be vetoed by somebody else? Mr. Onno Ruding was vetoed for the IMF, Mr. Ruud Lubbers was vetoed for the presidency of the Commission and now the French seem set to veto Mr. Duisenberg for the post of president of the European Central Bank. Does the Taoiseach agree that it is not helpful for one country to find itself being vetoed consistently, particularly when it is a small country which has made a positive contribution to the EU?

I do not wish to get into diplomatic incidents by criticising one country or another. It is regrettable that we are at this stage just ten days before making these decisions at the summit. We have had the European Monetary Institute for some time and it was clear that it would move to the proposed arrangements, yet there is not agreement. As Deputy Bruton knows, some of the larger countries have a large say in these matters. However, on this matter they have not been able to see eye to eye.

The Taoiseach indicated that he plans to have only one meeting with the heads of Government in advance of the council meeting. Can we take it the question of an Irish candidate has not been pursued vigorously by the Government for one of the positions on the central council?

In terms of the matter being dealt with at our level — ECOFIN is dealing with the other matters — a vigorous candidate is not being pursued.

The Taoiseach is available.

If it came to a compromise, however, there is a very well-known candidate available, the highly respected Governor of the Central Bank. It would be wrong to proceed with that campaign until we get a signal.

Kerrymen always have the opportunity to come in in the last five minutes.

Deputy Bruton will recall how President Santer came in in the last few hours against all odds.