Written Answers. - EU Enlargement.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

185 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government has assisted the Czech Republic in its application to join the European Union; the assistance given in this regard; the cost thereof where relevant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8154/01]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government fully supports the enlargement process and participates positively and constructively in the accession negotiations, which are at a very advanced stage with the Czech Republic and other candidate countries. At the same time, Ireland is willing to provide any assistance possible for the candidate countries in their preparations for EU membership. Ireland is perceived by these countries as having managed its membership of the EU very well.

In addition to the assistance provided under EU programmes like PHARE, Ireland has provided assistance for the Czech Republic and other candidates on a bilateral basis, in the form of advice and training for officials in preparation for accession. Czech public servants have participated in several training courses and seminars on EU issues, which have been funded and organised by my Department in conjunction with the Institute of Public Administration. This programme of courses is being developed further in the lead-up to accession and I fully expect that more officials from the Czech Republic will participate.

Contacts at all levels, Government, parliamentary and official, can be very beneficial to both candidate and member states alike. In respect of the Czech Republic, I can report that such contacts have increased considerably in recent years. I draw attention particularly to the very successful state visit paid by the President to the Czech Republic in October 1999, the visit by the Tánaiste to Prague in June 2000, the official visit of the Czech Foreign Minister to Ireland in June 2000 and the working visit by the Czech chief negotiator to Dublin on 13 March this year as just four examples of the many recent high level exchanges. Further intense contacts are planned at all levels in the period ahead.
Ireland also participates in EUTELSAT, the European Telecommunications Satellite Organisation, an intergovernmental body that operates a satellite network for fixed and mobile telecommunications. EUTELSAT was formed to provide international telecommunications links but is now increasingly involved in the provision of high bandwidth data services, which allows for rapid Internet access, and in the provision of broadcast services for both radio and television. I am presently preparing to bring proposals to Government to ratify, on behalf of Ireland, an amended EUTELSAT Convention. The proposed amendments will allow the organisation to develop its position in the fast growing markets for satellite communications services and to adapt to technical, economic and regulatory developments. Through its participation in both EUTELSAT and INTELSAT, its international equivalent, Ireland is well positioned to maximise the benefits that can be achieved from the expansion of satellite services. Undertakings in Ireland will have equal access to facilities as and when they are developed and become available.