Written Answers. - European Commission.

Enda Kenny

Question:

18 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the proposals being made by the President of the European Commission in relation to the role of commissioners. [15019/02]

Damien English

Question:

54 Mr. English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his view on the way in which the European Commission should be composed following the expansion of the European Union to 27 members. [15030/02]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 54 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, in a Protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam, the member states of the European Union agreed that before any enlargement should take place, the five largest member states would lose their right to nominate two Commissioners, provided that agreement on re-weighting of votes in the Council was agreed. In the Treaty of Nice, it was agreed that from 2005 each member state, regardless of size, will nominate one Commissioner. This will continue to be the case until membership of the Union reaches 27. Each new state joining during that period will be entitled to nominate a Commissioner.

It was also agreed that when membership of the EU reaches 27, the Council will decide, on the basis of unanimity, the size of the Commission, which is to be less than 27. It is absolutely guaranteed that membership of the Commission will be rotated between member states on the basis of strict equality.

This is a good deal for Ireland which protects our national interests. Clearly, ratification of the Treaty of Nice by all member states, including Ireland, is necessary for these measures to take effect. In approaching this matter, the Government's bottom line will remain that maintenance of strict equality between member states – which has served both the EU and its members so well to date – is a fundamental principle from which we should not depart.

On the question of recent comments by the President of the Commission, Romano Prodi, in the context of debate on the future of Europe, there are a great many suggestions being made about a number of issues, including the future composition and formation of the Commission. I understand that President Prodi's comments are personal and informal and should be viewed in that way. Similar ideas were mooted in the early stages of the negotiations that led to the Treaty of Nice. However, they were not pursued.

While we favour a strong Commission, substantial change along the lines of suggestions in some media reports would, as a matter of political reality, require the endorsement of member states. As I have already mentioned, for Ireland the principle of equality as regards Commission membership will remain fundamental.

Question No. 19 answered with Question No. 11.