Written Answers. - EU Presidency.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

15 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps he is taking to prepare for Ireland's next Presidency of the EU. [15028/02]

Ireland will undertake its sixth Presidency of the European Union on 1 January 2004. Since the last Irish Presidency in 1996 there has been a significant increase in the Presidency's workload notably in the common foreign and security policy and in justice and home affairs areas. In addition, Ireland is likely to be the first member state to preside over an enlarged Union, with up to ten new member states expected to join the EU as full members in 2004.

As we indicated in the Programme for Government our aim will be to run a pro-active and efficient Presidency. Planning for this is already well under way and will intensify over the next 18 months. Two interdepartmental committees were established in 2001, chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs, to coordinate the preparations for the Presidency. The Inter-Departmental Committee for Coordinating the Presidency deals with programming and policy related matters and the Inter-Departmental Administrative Planning Group deals with logistical planning. Both groups report through the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Senior Officials Group and to the Cabinet Committee on European Affairs. The Centre for Management and Organisation Development, CMOD, at the Department of Finance is preparing a wide range of training courses to train staff at all levels for the Presidency.

The calendar of Council meetings for the Irish Presidency is currently being developed and will include two meetings of the European Council and a large number of ministerial meetings in a wide variety of policy areas. More than 200 Council Working Group meetings, to be chaired by Irish officials, will also take place. A list of chairpersons and national delegates for the committees and working groups is currently being compiled in consultation with all relevant Departments. Work on designing the Presidency logo and developing new IT systems and the Presidency website is ongoing.

In the run-up to the Presidency we will work with our partners in Europe, in particular with the preceding Italian Presidency and the succeeding Dutch Presidency, as well as the EU institutions in order to ensure that we are in a good position to take on our responsibilities and run an effective Presidency in 2004.