Since my appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs in September 1997 there have been no discussions at the General Affairs Council of incidents of racism and xenophobia within the EU, including Ireland.
However, the Deputy should be aware that the General Affairs Council, at its meeting on 2 June 1997, approved the establishment of the European Monitoring centre on Racism and Xenophobia and the centre, which is based in Vienna, opened in January of this year.
The primary objective of the monitoring centre is to provide the community and its member states with objective, reliable and comparable data at European level on the phenomena of racism, xenophobia and anti-semitism in order to help them when they take measures or formulate courses of action within their respective spheres of competence.
The initiative for the establishment of this centre stemmed from a decision taken at the European Council in Cannes in June 1995 when it was agreed that a consultative commission be established to study the feasibility of establishing a European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia.
Ireland fully supported the initiative to establish the new European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia and we will continue to support action at EU level aimed at combating racism and xenophobia.
I should also like to advise the Deputy that the 1996 EU Joint Action on Racism and Xenophobia continues to be pursued in the context of the Justice and Home Affairs Council. The joint action was aimed at improving judicial co-operation between member states in the fight against racism and xenophobia and the report presented to the May JHA Council indicated that member states have, to a very large extent, implemented the provisions of the joint action.