I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 10 together.
As the Deputies are well aware, my colleagues in Government and I have focused our fullest attention on the duty free issue since we came into office 18 months ago. I draw the Deputies attention to replies I gave in the House to other questions on this matter on 10 November.
The Deputies will recall that Mr. Andre Capet, Deputy for the Calais region, visited me in June when he was researching his study on the impact of the abolition of duty free sales in France. He was instructed to do so by the French Prime Minister. The report concluded that the abolition would have a major impact on industry. Following my discussions with the French Minister for Transport, Mr. Jean-Claud Gayssot on 28 September about the options available the Taoiseach wrote to the French Prime Minister, Mr. Lionel Jospin, supporting use of the series of options set out in the Capet study.
Earlier this year, I provided letters of introduction of support to a deputation from Aer Rianta who wished to meet with Commissioner Monti on this issue and to lobby various member states in an effort to widen support for a deferral option. Arising from these letters, members of the board of Aer Rianta met with officials of the Portuguese Ministry of Finance, the Finnish Transport Ministry and the Swedish Minister for Transport and Finance. In addition, on 28 October last, I wrote to my Danish counterpart, Mrs. Sonja Mikkelsen, following which the worker directors of Aer Rianta met with officials of the Ministry for Transport and the Ministry for Taxation on this issue. I also wrote to my German colleague, Mr. Franz Munterfering asking him to meet Aer Rianta delegates with a view to considering arguments in favour of retaining duty free.
On 19 November I met Commissioner Kinnock, as did the Taoiseach separately, and raised the issue of duty free. I also raised the matter in the margins of the EU Transport Council on 30 November. At ECOFIN on 1 December the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, supported a French proposal to maintain duty free. For the first time Germany supported a request for the continuation of the duty free concession, and this is a significant development. I will continue with similar efforts.